The Nigerian Army has confirmed an attack on its troops at Metele village in Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno State, but said the video in circulation, which was allegedly released by Boko Haram is fake.
In the unsigned statement posted on a Facebook page, HQ Nigerian Army said it observed that several social media, print and online publications have been brandishing false casualty figures, as well as circulating various footages of old and inaccurate Boko Haram propaganda videos and alluding same to be the attack on 157 Task Force Battalion.
The statement said: “Whilst it is understandable how such misinformation can spread in this era of social media frenzy, the spurious circulation of some of these videos only contribute to further propagate the propaganda intent of the terrorists; to misinform the populace and portray themselves as what they are not. So far, the situation is that the location is under control, as reinforcing units have been able to repel the terrorists and stabilise the situation.”
Explaining that the army has laid down procedures for reporting incidents involving its personnel who fall casualty in action, the statement said: “Out of respect for the families of our gallant troops, the NOKs are first notified before any form of public information, so as to avoid exacerbating the grief family members would bear, were they to discover such from unofficial sources.”
Meanwhile, the Army Command in Maiduguri has evacuated bodies of soldiers killed by Boko Haram insurgents. A military source, who disclosed this to journalists on condition of anonymity, said over 70 dead soldiers were evacuated to Maiduguri by the military after the Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole and the GOC, 7 Div on Friday went to Monguno to strategise and recover bodies of the slain soldiers.
The source added that more than 100 soldiers were feared dead in the attack.
It was also gathered that the first rescue and evacuation team was foiled after Boko Haram launched an attack that forced it into abandoning the mission.
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, expressed deep shock over the killing of military personnel in Metele village of Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists, assuring that immediate measures are being taken to ensure that the loopholes, which led to the fatalities, are blocked once and for all.
Reacting to the tragic incident in a statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President said his administration remains ever committed and focused on the security of military personnel and other citizens.
President Buhari said: “No responsible Commander-in-Chief would rest on his oars or fold his hands and allow terrorists endanger the lives of its military personnel and other citizens. Our loyal forces have proved their strength over the terrorists, and we are ready to give them all the needed support in terms of equipment and manpower to succeed in ending the renewed threat. In the coming days, I am engaging the Military and Intelligence Chiefs in extensive discussions on the next steps we shall be taking.”
The President noted that fighting terrorism has taken a global dimension, which necessitates international collaboration among states facing similar security challenges.
Reacting to the incident, a delegate to the 2014 National Conference and most senior military officer in the Gideon Orkah 1990 coup, Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd) and Human Rights lawyer, Dr. Femi Aborisade condemned the soldiers’ killing.
The duo, in separate reactions, yesterday, said the incident was not only threatening to the coming 2019 elections, but also places a question mark on the incumbent government’s capacity to provide security.
Wondering why Nigerians place so much emphasis on elections and not the country’s security, Nyiam said: “Why are we so distracted from facing the reality that a major war has been declared against the Nigerian state? The answer might be that our policymakers are focused on 2019 elections. But why has giving priority to declaring war and demonstrating the political will to win the war not featured in the campaign? How long can we accept to be misled that the threat is from a ragtag army?”
He said Boko Haram’s current level demands quick action and should not be handled with levity.
On his part, Aborisade said a situation where hundreds of Nigerian soldiers were killed like flies without any official response from the Federal Government, particularly the Executive Arm, to acknowledge that the lives of these human beings matter, represents the peak, so far, in the index of government’s failure, as far as unprecedented insecurity is concerned, as well as the height of insensitivity and callousness of the Nigerian ruling class. He lampooned government and military authority for failing to display any official condolence, urging the society to mourn the gallant soldiers, who were killed in active service.
The spokesman of Yoruba sociocultural organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin described the development as a national tragedy.
He said: “It’s a big tragedy for Nigeria that our military could suffer such a crushing and humiliating casualties from what government propaganda machinery has described as ‘degraded’ or ‘defeated’ Boko Haram. This unfortunate development 83 days to the general elections is a big threat to our national stability, as we inch towards the polls. The government should stop playing the ostrich and rise to the urgency, instead of being fixated only on its re-election project.”
Meanwhile, a group, Good Governance Initiative (GGI) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the chief of army staff, following the rising level of insurgency in the Northeast.
GGI said the call became necessary, following the glaring failure of the army chief to protect the nation’s territorial borders from invasion by armed groups.
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, GGI President, Nnosike Nwosu, accused authorities of negligence, saying the latest development was enough reason for the COAS to resign, as he has shown incapacity, which has exposed the nation to global shame.