The Defence Headquarters has denied a Wall Street Journal investigation that reported the unceremonious burial of over 1,000 Nigerian troops killed by Boko Haram or the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP) in secret graves.
According to the WSJ, the secret graves are located in Maimalari, Borno State but the Nigerian military dispute the claims. Per Acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu:
- “The cemetery described in the publication, which is situated in Maimalari Military Cantonment, is an officially designated military cemetery for the Armed Forces of Nigeria in the North-east theatre, with a cenotaph erected in honour of our fallen heroes.”
Nigerian journalist, Eromo Egbejule who has been covering the insurgency in the North East countered the denials of the Nigerian military.
Historically, the Nigerian troops have complained of their treatment by the military headquarters. A video released in November 2018 following an ISWAP attack on a military base showed soldiers on the frontlines accusing their commanders of endangering their lives. The soldiers who lamented their poor welfare and lack of fighting equipment, also accused the military of cover up on casualty toll.
- “No less than 100 plus soldiers died here. Many are missing in action, they are nowhere to be found.”
Opposition weighs in: The presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, called on the presidency to set up an independent judicial panel to investigate the claims contained in the report.
- Recently, the All Progressives Congress issued a statement to castigate Atiku for “usurping Buhari’s role” as a result of his comments on national matters.
Bottomline: This is not the first time that the military has been involved in downplaying casualties during the ongoing war. It is understandable that the Nigerian military intends to not show weakness by reporting the numbers, however the burial of the gallant troops in secrecy is quite dishonorable.