© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Defence headquarters denies existence of secret graveyards in Northeast theater
THE Defence Headquarters (DHQ) on Thursday denied reports of burying scores of Nigeria soldiers at secret unmarked graves to conceal figures of casualties in the ongoing war against insurgency in the Northeast.
The information was disclosed in a statement by the Director of Defence Information, Onyema Nwachukwu.
According to the military, such a report was an insinuation that emanated from an uninformed position of the author of the publication.
The military revealed that there was no secret graveyard in the Northeast theater, stating the Armed Forces of Nigeria has a rich and solemn tradition for the internment of its fallen heroes.
The army spokesperson maintained that the Armed forces of Nigeria do not indulge in secret burials, as it is “sacrilegious and profanity to extant ethos and tradition of the Nigeria Army”.
“It must be unambiguously clarified that the Armed Forces of Nigeria does not indulge in secret burials, as it is sacrilegious and a profanity to extant ethos and traditions of the Nigerian military,” the statement read.
The statement added that it was the tradition of the Armed Forces to duly honour its fallen heroes and paying the last respect in befitting military funeral of international standards.
The standards included; funeral parade, gravesite oration, solemn prayers for their rest of their souls, done by both by Islamic and Christian clerics, as well as gun salutes, aside from other military funeral rites.
“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.”
Nwachukwu said the official cemetery had played host to several national and international dignitaries, where wreaths were laid in honour of the fallen heroes.
“It is, therefore, a far cry from the sacrilegious impression being painted by the Wall Street Journal.” the statement read.
The army urged the general public to disregard “such a misinformed publication and see it as a figment of the imagination of the writer, whose knowledge of military valued ethos and traditions is grossly misplaced”.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had in a report said the Nigeria Army had buried scores of soldiers at a secret cemetery, “at the northern edge of Maiduguri city’s sprawling military base; a vast field of churned soil conceals the hidden toll of a deadly offensive by the allies of Islamic State”.
It said after dark, the bodies of soldiers are covertly transported from a mortuary that at times gets so crowded the corpses are delivered by truck.
The report revealed that the bodies were laid by flashlight into trenches dug by infantrymen or local villagers paid a few dollars per shift.
WSJ disclosed, its report was based on accounts from Nigerian soldiers, diplomats, and a senior government official.
It said a soldier who spoke from the Maimalari barracks, where 1,000 are based, said, “Several of my comrades were buried in unmarked graves at night”.
“They are dying and being deleted from history.”
The report said, a senior government official noted that the secret graveyard at Maimalari is not the only one in Nigeria’s troubled northeast.