From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
As widows of soldiers killed in the insurgency war raging in the north east, in Sabo Wuse, Zuma, Suleja barracks decry neglect and non-payment of their husbands’ life insurance claims years after their death, the Federal Government has blamed lack of budget provision for the delay.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, explained that funds has been provided for claims by the Department of Security Service (DSS) because the requests were made promptly, adding that the same is not the case from the armed forces.
Ahmed, while responding to a question in the State House, on the cause of the delay said her ministry has just received the 2013 request which unfortunately has not been captured in the 2021 budget.
She said: “ We received this request. The question you should also be asking is, why is the 2013 request just coming now? We just received it. So, it wasn’t planned for. It wasn’t budgeted for. And this has happened all these years. So it’s this 2021 that this request is coming. So, now, we’re left with the work of having to raise money to be able to provide for those families to be paid. And we’re discussing on how we can phase it because it was not provided for in the budget. And then the question you should be asking is: where has it been kept all this time? why is the request just coming now?”
Some of the widows, who spoke in separate interviews, said it was unfair for their husbands to pay the supreme price trying to keep the nation one only for their families to be denied the benefits that can help them live comfortably.
A widow, simply named Joan said she lost her husband when they were ambushed in January, last year in Niger State. The mother of one, said despite appearing with her mother-in-law for documentation and verification to confirm the next-of-kin at the military pensions board, she is yet to hear from them.
A mother, Hassanah, who has not come to terms with the fact that her son, who has been missing in action when troops from One Division Kaduna were ambushed in Maiduguri, in October 2018, just want the authorities to confirm his status as well as pay his benefits to his next-of-kin.
The mother of seven and a widow (she lost her husband in 2009), lamented that she has lost two of her seven children, said the military has not been forthcoming with what exactly happened to her son, whether he is late or alive.
The widow who spoke through her daughter-in-law said: “The army has not given us information, but always promising that they will get back to me but they never did. Because of the way I’m being treated, I even want my first son who is also in the army to resign. He was persuaded to join the army by the last brother, after he lost his job as a fuel station manager.”
Another widow whose husband died while serving the country in 2015, at Suleja, explained that her husband was sick and taken to the hospital where he died as a result the illness. He left her with four kids, and life has been a struggle for her as a teacher at a private school.
A widow with two kids, whose husband died during peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone, said she has been having a running battle with his children from previous a marriage. Her husband died without updating his will to accommodate his wife and her kids. He left her with nothing.
The family members of a Corporal, who died in 2020 fighting the Boko Haram insurgents in Maiduguri, also lamented what they described as “shabby treatment.”
A mother and daughter of a retired warrant officer from Sabo Wuse, who later died from stroke in 2008, lamented that they have been left completely to their fate.
Meanwhile, a group, Accountable Leadership for Better Nigeria Initiative, in a letter to the Chairman, House Committee on Defence, described the development as “quite disheartening as it is unjust and demoralizing to the fighting spirit, commitment and effectiveness of the soldiers on the battlefield!
“The hapless widows, who had to express their agonies anonymously, must indeed be passing through the pains of losing their beloved husbands to Boko Haram insurgency and now abandoned by the nation to lock their wounds.”
In the letter signed by its Executive Director, Remi Adebayo, the group called on the National Assembly to find out why the finance ministry delayed payment of premium for Group Life Insurance of the Armed forces, leading to the delay in prompt payment of claims of officers abs men who died in service.
It also urged the National Assembly to eliminate bottlenecks hampering seamless and prompt disbursement of claims to next-of-kin of the fallen heroes, as well as call for a public hearing to address the issues causing the delay in the disbursement.