Boko Haram attacks that killed hundreds in raids on at least three villages in northeastern Nigeria this week have shed light on the Nigerian government's weaknesses as they fight against the militant group.
Reports of the attacks on Monday and Tuesday in the Borno state did not spread to the capital of the province or the rest of the country until today due to the lack of safe or reliable roads and telecommunication networks in rural Nigeria.
Armed Boko Haram militants, dressed as members of the Nigerian military, reportedly attacked the villages of Danjara, Agapalwa, and Antagara, according to witnesses. In the attacks, heavily armed militants drove into the villages on pickup trucks and motorcycles and opened fire on villagers, burning down hundreds of homes.
Reports of exactly how many people were killed vary between 100 and 200, but were not able to be independently verified. Mohammed Ali Ndume, a senator representing Borno, and a top security official in Maiduguri confirmed the attacks, the AP reported.
Villagers reportedly asked the Nigerian military to send soldiers to protect them from the attack after they had received prior word about it, but officers did not show up.
This comes after a Nigerian newspaper reported that 15 members of the military, including 10 top generals, were found guilty of aiding Boko Haram. The Nigerian newspaper The Leadership quoted military sources, who stated that the officers were found guilty of providing ammunition and intelligence to Boko Haram militants, after being tried by a court martial.
But the Nigerian military quickly dismissed these claims as false.
“This falsehood had previously been refuted when it first reared its head but those concocting it appear hell bent on misleading Nigerians and the international community to give credence to the negative impression they are so keen to propagate about the Nigerian military,” said a military spokesperson Tuesday.
Despite the military’s swift denial, this is not the first time the government has been criticized for their dealings with Boko Haram.
A report published by Amnesty International in May found that the military had advance warning of the raid in Chibok — where Boko Haram militants kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls — and failed to act to prevent it.
The report independently confirmed through various sources states that Nigeria’s military headquarters had been warned of the impending attack, “but an inability to muster troops — due to poor resources and a reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped armed groups — meant that reinforcements were not deployed to Chibok that night.”
“It is often reported that the military knew either about an attack, or was outgunned, or ran away,” John Campbell, a senior fellow for African policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VICE News. “Sometimes this may be true, but this is more often because the military is strapped for resources and can’t respond.”
The government’s inability to adequately address the threat posed by Boko Haram, and especially its handling of the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok, has been the source of much of the ongoing protests in the capital for the past month, led by the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign.
Nigeria's Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu made a statement Monday banning protests in Nigeria’s capital, citing security concerns. This ban sparked outrage both in and outside of Nigeria, leading activists to file a lawsuit against Nigeria’s police. Members of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign called the ban illegal, saying that the protest ban violated their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly.
The Nigerian government quickly retracted the ban on Tuesday, saying that people were free to protest and that the earlier statement from the Police Commissioner was merely meant to advise caution during the rallies.
But despite the government's back peddling on the protest ban and the denial of any collusion with Boko Haram, the frustration towards perceived inaction has now been simmering for months.
“The government is not serious about fighting them,” Olukayode Thomas, a journalist for the Nigerian paperCity Voice, in Lagos, told VICE News in March. “They killed about 100 kids in the last few days, and Nigeria is going about celebrating its 100 years of existence.”
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