•Says Army lying, trying to “cover-up” in its denials
The controversial investigative journalist, Ahmad Salkida has called the Nigerian military out for trying to “cover up” the alleged killing of several soldiers with hundreds missing when Boko Haram attacked or overran their bases in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, North East Nigeria.
Salkida @A_Salkida in a series of tweets wondered why the Nigerian Army could not honour the soldiers who have paid the supreme sacrifice by trying to cover up their deaths.
His first tweet, which came shortly before series of official statements from the Nigerian Army, denying the incident said: “No official statements, no flags at half-mast when servicemen or citizens die, only denials and cover-ups. We place no value on human lives and the international community know this, and as such, they no longer send condolences when we mourn. #Nigeria #LakeChad”
“But after the Army issued its statements, Salkida noted: :The Nigerian media is now focusing on the 23 missing soldiers. This was the first attack on a convoy in Bama, there was a second onslaught on a military facility in Jilli, Yobe, in that single attack, we lost over 100 servicemen. Go through my TL, read the two reports by AFP?”
However, his blunt and hard-hitting style of tweets and information dissemination did not go down well with some Nigerians who felt she should have been more discrete.
One, Arc. Saifuddeen @AMSaifuddeen said: “My brother, hope you don’t take delight from bizarre stories of war. Be sensitive please. A lot have yet to recover from your position on the Chibok girls. Report with some decency my brother and be more professional.”. Also Gbenga Omoniyi @gbengasmart wrote: “If you have so much knowledge and info about BH, show your love to Nigeria by helping the authorities to end this scourge. There is no pride in being an originator of evil news.”
But Salkida responded saying: :I can call when I reported the deaths of scores of soldiers in a single attack in Gudumbali in 2015, I was called names. 3yrs later, the reporters that join others to ridicule me attended the event to honour the 144 soldiers that died in that attack. Nothing beats the truth.
“No one is happy that we are losing ppl everyday to this crisis, my only grouse is with the misinformation and cover-up. There’s no doubt, progress has been made, thanks to the sacrifices of our compatriots, but the exaggeration is needless, as it gives a false sense of security”
The AFP reports had claimed that hundreds of Nigerian troops are missing after Boko Haram jihadists overran a military base in the remote northeast, security sources said on Sunday, in the second major assault on the armed forces in two days.
It said the terrorists invaded a base holding more than 700 soldiers in Yobe state – where they abducted over 100 girls from a school earlier this year – in an hours-long onslaught on Saturday night, a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Fewer than 100 soldiers have returned following the attack, which took place just 24 hours after Boko Haram fighters ambushed a military convoy in neighbouring Borno state on Friday.
The two assaults have highlighted the tenuous hold Nigerian forces have on the ravaged region despite claims by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government that the country is in a “post-conflict stabilisation phase”.
“Boko Haram terrorists attacked troops of the 81st Division Forward Brigade at Jilli village in Geidam district. The terrorists came in huge numbers around 19:30 and overran the base after a fierce battle that lasted until 9:10 pm,” said the military source.
“The base had 734 troops. Currently the commander of the base and 63 soldiers have made it to Geidam (60km away) while the remaining 670 are being expected,” he said, without elaborating on their possible fate.
“We don’t know if there were any casualties among the troops. That will be known later,” he said, adding that the base was new and the troops had recently arrived from Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
A leader of a local anti-jihadist militia said the soldiers sustained casualties, but was unable to give a toll, attributing the attack to the Abu-Mus’ab Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram, which is known for targeting Nigerian forces.
“We learned that they drove from Lake Chad through Gubio (in nearby Borno state) and attacked the base,” he said.
Geidam resident Fannami Gana said the jihadists “overwhelmed” the troops.
“We don’t know the details of what happened but we learnt they were overwhelmed by hundreds of Boko Haram gunmen,” said Gana.
Nigerian army spokesperson Texas Chukwu said he did not know about the attack.
“I am not aware of the attack because (I) have not received information from there,” Chukwu said in a text message to AFP.
Battle for control
On Friday, 23 Nigerian soldiers went missing after Boko Haram ambushed a convoy outside Bama, leading to the loss of several military vehicles.
According to a military officer, “around 100 terrorists” attacked the convoy.
The sophisticated attacks highlight the continued threat – and evolution – of Boko Haram, an Islamic State group ally, said Yan St-Pierre, counter-terrorism advisor and head of the Berlin-based Modern Security Consulting Group.
St-Pierre suggested the attacks could be because Boko Haram fighters are vying for control of the faction led by Abubakar Shekau, the long-time jihadist leader who is reportedly ill.
“When a near-mythical leader is on his way out there’s always a battle to establish who could be next,” said St-Pierre.
The attacks show the persistent threat of Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, he said.
As the jihadists exploit rampant poverty in the region, the Nigerian army, which is overstretched and under-resourced, struggles to keep the insurgency in check.
“The supply of Boko Haram fighters is always there, either through kidnapping or economic reasons, they tap into a wide pool of personnel, they find a way to replenish their strength,” St-Pierre said.
Buhari, a 75-year-old former military ruler, came to power three years ago on a promise to defeat Boko Haram.
But while there have been clear military gains since a counter-insurgency was launched in 2015, suicide bombings and raids remain a constant threat, particularly to civilians.
Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency has devastated the region since 2009, leaving at least 20 000 people dead, displacing more than two million others and triggering a humanitarian crisis.