There seem to be a crack between Nigerian and Nigerien Defence authorities – the two key allies in the ongoing offensive against the Boko Haram Islamic sect, following verbal exchanges against each others' military capabilities at dealing with the terrorists.
It was the Nigerien Defence Minister, Mahamadou Karidjo, who was reported to have fired the first salvo by suggesting that Nigerian troops were cowards.
Karidjo had on Thursday in a seemingly derogatory and irksome comment contained in a release, described Nigerian soldiers as weaklings who run away at the sight of the terrorists.
The Defence minister while prepping up their forces, was quoted to have said; “Our soldiers are not like Nigerians…because they don’t run".
Reacting to the shocking comments, the Director of Defence Information (DDI),Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, Friday through his twitter account, vigorously defended the roles of the Nigerian military in the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
Olukolade said that the Nigerian Soldiers remained undaunted despite attacks and insults.
According to him, the soldiers had been maximising the use of available resources to keep at bay the terrorists who keep flooding in from around the Lake Chad Basin region comprising Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun.
He indirectly accused the northern neighbours of subtle invasion and sabotage, saying; "our troops have with due decency and professionalism respected borders unlike others reputed for looting, mercenary engagement/collaboration with terrorists as a way of surviving the poverty in their country.
His words: "Our soldiers have remained professional and sacrificial in protecting their fellow Nigerians, preserving the nation's assets. Despite these jeerings, insults and ill wishes from within or without Nigeria, the Nigerian Soldier has not and will not be deterred.
Speaking further, Olukolade assured that despite the obvious internal and external sabotage, the military will soon secure victory against the terrorists and restore the country's territorial integrity.
"He remains the gallant, brave and patriotic Nigerian Soldier. Although these battles continue, and others are now joining him, never mind very soon, it will be #VictoryforNigeria.
The Nigerian Military remains a great asset and the envy of other Nations", he said.
Not done with the annoying Nigeriens, he continued: "Welcome our friends from Niger. No way for your infamous looting here. How the poor country compensates it's soldiers and claim they don't run
Olukolade also come short of directly fingering the West African neighbour and active member of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) of supplying both bases, men and resources to the Boko Haram terrorists attacking Nigeria.
"Our soldiers have been defending our people and nations wealth from mercenaries supplied to Boko Haram by those who boast that they don't run.
"The Nigerien Defence Ministry's irresponsible comment is noted. It is sad a few partisan elements join the Poor Country to insult our Troops", he said.
"We don't cross our boundaries. It is unacceptable for any Foreign Government to say our Soldiers run. This is your Motherland! Defend Her.
"Some rushed to the press with the Nigerien gaffe hoping to embarrass our military or government. But nobody will disrespect my Mother. Poor Niger! Treacherous ones amongst us accorded them effrontery to insult our troops to gain bad press. Don't compromise your Patriotism", he charged Nigerians.
It could be recalled that Nigeria has suspicious of the roles and intentions of the three neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroun and Niger in the war against terror.
Prior to the ongoing arrangement that encompasses joint offensive by the troops of these countries to rout the terrorists from their contiguous borders, Nigerian military had always viewed their participation with skepticism.
Accordingly, their lack of cooperation and willingness to aid Nigerian counter-terrorism efforts had been attributed to ineffectiveness of the MNJTF arrangement necessitating the current African Union initiative.
However, the verbal exchanges have helped to bring to the fore the simmering cold-war between Nigeria and her francophone unfriendly neighbours.