By Musdapha Ilo
THE ICIR can authoritatively report that 62 soldiers were killed in Saturday’s attack on a military base by the Boko Haram in Geidam local Government Area, Yobe State.
Despite denials by the military about the attack on the base in Jilli in Geidam, this website has obtained credible information indicating that dozens of soldiers lost their lives and more are still missing.
On the same day, Boko Haram insurgents ambushed a military convoy in Boboshe village in Bama local government area of Borno State. Twenty-three soldiers, including five officers and 18 soldiers, were reported by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, to be missing.
According to our source, the military deployed 81 Brigade less than a month ago at Jilli because the village is a major crossing point for Boko Haram from Kukareta to Geidam. The Brigade is made up of about 1,000 soldiers, which is about half the normal strength of a brigade. On the day of the attack, there was a distribution of uniforms to the troops going on when Boko Haram fighters attacked around 5.00pm.
“When Boko Haram opened fire on the troops, they tried to fight back but were overpowered. Boko Haram fighters arrived with many anti-aircraft guns while the soldiers were limited to AK-47 riffles. The only support weapons readily available were machine guns but these are very old and not too reliable. It intermittently stops when being fired and this is not good in a battlefield,” the source said.
According to the source, the army authority was still servicing the armoured tanks that were to be deployed for the brigade before the unfortunate attack.
Explaining why there were so many casualties, the source said it happened because the soldiers decided to run away after being overpowered, which gave the attackers the advantage. Among those killed were three officers, while the commanding officer escaped with a gunshot wound in the leg. The Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Dangana, however, escaped unhurt and has since gone back to his post.
The ICIR also learnt that Boko Haram fighters took away three gun trucks and burnt four others because they could not move them.
The ICIR learnt that a day after the attack, 25 corpses were retrieved and on Monday, 37 more were evacuated to 7 Division in Maimalari Barracks, Maiduguri. Some of the corpses were deposited in the morgue inside the barracks and others were taken to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital due to lack of space.
When our source visited the hospital inside the barracks, he saw more than 50 injured soldiers from the attack in a single ward.
“The more than 50 injured soldiers I saw were in a single ward, as I didn’t even enter the other wards,” the source said, adding, “Most of them were shot in the legs, some in the thigh. I saw one soldier whose face was grazed by a bullet.”
The military has refuted media reports that soldiers were killed or missing in the attack.
“Contrary to the report, the Army wishes to state that, although the base was attacked by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, troops reorganised and successfully repelled the attack and normalcy has since returned to the area. Also, all the troops in the base were accounted for contrary to the report,” army spokesperson, Texas Chukwu, a Brigadier General, had said.
This is not the first time the army has denied losing soldiers in Boko Haram attacks, especially when such attacks involved heavy casualty. On July 1, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, a Lieutenant General, inaugurated a cenotaph in Gudumbali, headquarters of Guzamala local government in Borno state, in memory of 144 soldiers killed during a deadly attack on November 18, 2015.
This action finally put paid to the army’s attacks on the media three years after it had tried to cover up the attack.
Premium Times, Nigeria’s leading online investigative newspaper, broke the story a day after the attack but the army was quick to disparage the organization, calling the report “the imagination of those sympathetic to Boko Haram ways of life.”
The ICIR exclusively got details of what happened and a video of the aftermath of the attack and published a report, which the military was quick to deny.
“There is no doubt that this is a hatchet job aimed at discrediting the Nigerian Army for reasons best known to you. We have always been open and transparent. We also take the safety and security of our troops very seriously same with their welfare and general well being. Your calculated attempt to cast the Army to demoralize our troops and make room for resurgence of terrorism and insurgency, will certainly fall flat on your faces,” then army spokesperson, Sani Usman, said in a comment in response to the story.