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Why entitlements of slain soldiers have not been paid

Illicit financial flows threaten economic stability, says Nigeria's finance minister

The minister of finance, budget and national planning, Zainab Ahmed has stated that there is no provision for life insurance claims of deceased soldiers in the 2021 budget.

Widows of soldiers killed in the ongoing insurgency war raging in the north-east have decried the neglect and non-payment of their husbands’ life insurance claims years after their death.

The finance minister, Ahmed while speaking with journalists said the settlements have been delayed because the requests were not made promptly.

She said the finance ministry just received the 2013 request which unfortunately has not been captured in the 2021 budget.

“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,” Ahmed said.

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“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?”

Ahmed explained that funds have been provided for claims by the Department of Security Service (DSS) owing to the fact that the requests were made on time, which is not the case with the armed forces.

Some of the widows, who spoke in separate interviews, said it was unfair for their husbands to pay the supreme price trying to defend the nation only for their families to be denied the benefits that can help them live comfortably.

A widow, who simply identified herself as Joan, said she lost her husband when the troops were ambushed in January 2020 in Niger state.

She said that 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.

Another woman named Hassanah said her son has been missing in action when troops from One Division Kaduna were ambushed in Maiduguri in October 2018.

She explained that she just wants the authorities to confirm if he is dead or alive, as well as pay his benefits to his next-of-kin.

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Meanwhile, the Accountable Leadership for Better Nigeria Initiative (ALBNI), in a letter to the chairman, house of representatives 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 Remi Adebayo, its executive director, 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 and 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.

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