President Muhammadu Buhari warned on Sunday that Nigerians should desist from politicising the deaths of soldiers killed after Boko Haram overran their base in Borno State last Sunday.
At least 118 soldiers were killed and 153 missing in the attack on 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Borno State, according to the most-recent findings.
After initial silence from both the presidency and the Nigerian military, Mr Buhari condemned the killing on Saturday, six days after the attack, promising to wipe out the insurgency and prioritise the plight of Nigerian troops involved in the counter-insurgency operations.
The president’s comments came a day after the military finally confirmed the attack on Friday night, five days after the attack on November 18. The Nigerian Army said reports of over 100 losses recorded in the media were untrue but failed to provide its internal casualty estimates.
In reiterating his administration’s commitment to defeating the insurgency on Sunday, Mr Buhari emphasised the need for Nigerians to see the insurgents as common enemies, and shun the urge to seek political advantage from their evil campaign.
“We must resist the temptation to play politics with the tragedy of the deaths of our soldiers,” Mr Buhari said on Twitter Sunday afternoon. “They are heroes on the frontlines, fighting to make Nigeria a safer place for us all.”
“Rest assured that the circumstances that have led to these deaths will be comprehensively addressed,” the president added.
He did not specifically mention any political parties or individuals whom he had seen as politicising the killings.
Widespread mourning has gripped the country since the news on Tuesday morning that dozens of soldiers, including their commander, had been killed in the attack, which occurred at about 6:00 p.m. in Melete.
The base had previously been attacked on October 8, but it seemed the military did not fortify it to withstand future aggression from Boko Haram thugs.
Atiku Abubakar, the main opposition presidential candidate, has condemned the attack and offered what he saw as solutions to the ten-year campaign by the jihadists. Mr Abubakar said there should be increased and prioritised focus on both the military expenditures and the timeframe required to approve them.
He also approved scholarships for five selected families of the fallen soldiers and urged the government to set up a trust for the care of fallen heroes’ families.
His suggestions came on the same day the Nigerian Senate suspended plenary over the killings, one of many that have occured since mid-July when Boko Haram elements raided multiple bases in Borno and Yobe.
The Senate urged the president to investigate to direct service chiefs on proper fortification of military bases to forestal future attacks.