Amnesty International on Wednesday claimed that Nigeria’s military top brass were warned of brutal Boko Haram attacks on the northeast towns of Baga and Monguno this month but failed to take action.
The January 3 2015 onslaught against Baga is feared to have killed hundreds, if not more, and destroyed thousands of homes, while the takeover of Monguno last weekend was seen as a major setback for the security forces.
Amnesty said it received information from senior military officers and other sources indicating that defence officials were told about Boko Haram’s plans to attack both towns but did not act on requests to send reinforcements.
“It is clear from this evidence that Nigeria’s military leadership woefully and repeatedly failed in their duty to protect civilians of Baga and Monguno despite repeated warnings about an impending threat posed by Boko Haram,” said Amnesty’s Africa director Netsanet Belay.
Regarding Baga, Amnesty said troops in the town in the extreme north of Borno state reported a build-up of insurgent fighters in the area before the attack.
Islamist rebels also warned civilians about an impending strike and several hundred residents consequently fled, the group added, citing military and local sources.
A Monguno resident was quoted as saying that residents there were also warned about a looming Boko Haram offensive and that this information was passed on to the military but no action was taken.
In a statement, defence spokesperson General Chris Olukolade said the Amnesty statement was “misleading.”
“The misleading conclusions by Amnesty International could have been avoided if they had made meaningful efforts to verify the inciting allegations,” Olukolade said in the statement.
It said that Amnesty’s effort to use the activities of Islamists to find fault with the military’s “counter-terrorism operations…is inaccurate and unfair.”
The military has repeatedly described Amnesty as an unreliable organisation with a political agenda.
Amnesty made similar accusations concerning an April 14 attack in Chibok, also in Borno, which saw Boko Haram kidnap more than 200 schoolgirls, sparking global outrage.
Rights groups, Western diplomats and prominent leaders across Nigeria have widely criticised the security services for their handling of the six-year Boko Haram uprising.
Civilians have repeatedly been left defenceless in the face of attacks and President Goodluck Jonathan, who is standing for re-election in less than three weeks, has so far not delivered on promises to contain the violence. – AFP