Some mil­i­tary com­man­ders among B/Haram fighters – Sol­dier

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - FELIX ONIG­BINDE By Pamela Dock­ins, VOA News

A Nige­rian sol­dier says he has wit­nessed in­ci­dents that sug­gest some Nige­rian mil­i­tary com­man­ders are work­ing with Boko Haram, an Is­lamist mil­i­tant group blamed for thou­sands of deaths since 2009.

In an exclusive in­ter­view with VOA’s Hausa ser­vice, he de­scribed how his mil­i­tary unit, based in the north­east­ern Borno State re­gion, was am­bushed by Boko Haram fighters.

The sol­dier, who did not want to be iden­ti­fied, said the com­man­der of a nearby mil­i­tary unit, based in the town of Bama, re­cently sought as­sis­tance from his unit in car­ry­ing out a raid.

The sol­dier said when the two mil­i­tary units joined up, they were given dif­fer­ent uni­forms. The Bama unit com­man­der gave his own troops green uni­forms. The sol­dier said his unit re­ceived tan “desert cam­ou­flage” uni­forms.

When the troops reached the bat­tle area, the sol­dier said the com­man­der of the bet­terequipped Bama unit sud­denly with­drew his forces, leav­ing the re­main­ing troops to fend for them­selves against Boko Haram fighters.

Speak­ing in Hausa, he said, “We had only light arms and our men were be­ing picked off one af­ter the other.”

The sol­dier also said he rec­og­nized some of the Boko Haram fighters as his for­mer mil­i­tary train­ers in Kon­tagora, a town near the cap­i­tal, Abuja.

“We re­al­ized that some of them were ac­tu­ally mer­ce­nar­ies from the Nige­rian army... hired to fight us,” he said.

This sol­dier and oth­ers have said that too of­ten, com­man­ders have pock­eted money that was sup­posed to be used to help equip units.

Govern­ment com­ment

has

no

VOA has made re­peated at­tempts to get re­ac­tion from the Nige­rian govern­ment for this story but no of­fi­cials have been will­ing to speak on the record.

How­ever, in a Jan­uary 2012 speech, Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan said Boko Haram mem­bers have in­fil­trated his govern­ment’s ex­ec­u­tive, leg­isla­tive and ju­di­cial sec­tors, as well as the po­lice and armed forces.

Jonathan has de­clared a state of emer­gency in three north­ern re­gions where Boko Haram is ac­tive, and launched op­er­a­tions to de­stroy the group’s camps. De­spite those ef­forts, though, large-scale at­tacks have con­tin­ued.

Sol­dier’s ac­count “cred­i­ble”

At­lantic Coun­cil Africa Cen­ter Di­rec­tor Peter Pham said the sol­dier’s ac­count could have merit.

“It cer­tainly would not sur­prise me that it is hap­pen­ing,” said Pham.

Pham said the goal should be to fig­ure out how and why col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and ter­ror groups could hap­pen.

“What’s crit­i­cal is to un­der­stand, if there is this col­lu­sion, to un­der­stand whether it is a col­lu­sion born of cor­rup­tion, born of des­per­a­tion sim­ply to avoid com­bat that would re­sult in ca­su­al­ties for the men un­der your com­mand, or if it is born of ide­o­log­i­cal sym­pa­thy with the in­sur­gents,” he said.

Apart from some well­trained elite units, Pham said most of Nigeria’s mil­i­tary is “woe­fully un­der­funded and un­der-re­sourced” in terms of equip­ment and train­ing.

Ef­fects cor­rup­tion”

of

“sys­temic

E.J. Hogendoorn is deputy di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group’s Africa pro­gram. The group re­cently re­leased a de­tailed re­port about the Boko Haram in­sur­gency in Nigeria.

He said Nigeria’s mil­i­tary dis­func­tion is part of a broader prob­lem of sys­temic cor­rup­tion ex­tend­ing through most govern­ment sec­tors.

Hogendoorn says “driv­ers,” such as bad gov­er­nance and the in­abil­ity of state in­sti­tu­tions to pro­vide ba­sic ser­vices, help cre­ate a pool of un­em­ployed youth “ripe for rad­i­cal­iza­tion.”

“We ar­gue that even were Boko Haram to be de­feated, if you don’t deal with those driv­ers, you are not go­ing to be able to sta­bi­lize ei­ther north­ern Nigeria or the en­tire coun­try,” he said.

Hogendoorn said in or­der for change to oc­cur, the Nige­rian govern­ment needs to ad­dress cor­rup­tion and poor gov­er­nance in a sys­tem­atic and sus­tained way.

PHOTO:

Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan’s 2015 elec­tion bill­board near This Day Dome at Cen­tral Area Abuja yes­ter­day.

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