Aggrieved soldiers affected by the Nigerian Army’s controversial Welfare Housing Scheme have lamented that the army is owing them uniform and boot allowances and still wants to make deductions from their salary in the name of a housing scheme.
The soldiers, who spoke to SaharaReporters on Saturday on the condition of anonymity, said the official statement of the Nigerian Army that the soldiers were duly consulted on the scheme was not true as nobody sought their consent or opinions.
The soldiers also lamented that it was also a lie that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, met the scheme in the pipeline when he assumed office in January 2021, adding that the controversial housing scheme is his brainchild.
SaharaReporters had on Friday reported that some of the aggrieved soldiers wrote a save-our-soul letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over the Nigerian Army’s planned deduction of their salaries to pay for the “fraudulent Nigerian Army Welfare Housing Scheme.”
The soldiers – One sergeant, two corporals, two Lance Corporals and one Private – in the letter obtained by SaharaReporters had noted that the army planned to deduct between N15,000 and N49,000 monthly from their little salaries, which are not able to currently meet their needs.
The personnel said the Non-Commissioned Officers and the Senior Non-Commissioned Officers were the only ones affected, and they now find it difficult to feed their family and pay their children school fees “from our meagre salaries.”
They demanded that the army authorities reconsider the deductions.
In a reaction by the Nigerian Army’s Director of Public Relations, Brig-Gen Mohammed Yerima, the army authorities had claimed that the soldiers were duly consulted.
“The current Chief of Army Staff met an Army Housing Scheme in the pipeline and constituted a committee to understudy its feasibility and desirability. The committee subsequently designed the questionnaire for soldiers to bare their minds on the scheme and ascertain those interested in it. It was still at this stage of administering the questionnaire to soldiers that agent provocateurs seized the moment to demonise the scheme with toxic narratives,” the army’s spokesman had stated.
But speaking with SaharaReporters, some of the soldiers countered the army’s position that the housing scheme was an innovation to swindle the lower ranks of their meagre salary.
“This is a welfare housing policy proposed by the Chief of Army Staff for the other rank cadre which is to be compulsory and monthly deductions will be made from every soldier’s salary. No soldier was consulted on this. The officer cadre was exempted; besides, most of us have houses of our own. Our scarce skills allowance is N100,000 every month but we are short paid,” one of them said.
“There was no housing scheme in the pipeline that the new Chief of Army Staff met when he assumed office. No soldier was consulted, and questionnaires were not shared to sensitise or sample the opinion of troops.
“Our salary has not been increased; we still buy uniforms and boots for ourselves; we live in dilapidated buildings. We've not been paid a uniform allowance and boot allowance. You are deployed to a company, the company pays the sum of N150,000, but the Commanding Officer will pay each soldier N30,000,” another soldier said.