Reactions of Bama and Maiduguri Residents On Controversy Surrounding Alleged Missing of Nigerian Soldiers and Vehicles in Bama

By Ahmed Abu, The Nigerian Voice, Maiduguri

The last Friday incident of boko haram ambush of Nigerian military soldiers on operational surveillance of some villages in Bama LGAs of Borno based on intelligence gathering leading to alleged killing of some officers and soldiers in one of the military vehicles as a result of explosion of IEDs that was planted by the boko Haram terrorists in the untarred road unknowingly to the soldiers while some boko Haram terrorists were laying down in the bush near the trap spot and suddenly sporadically opened fire on the soldiers who were trying to remove the vehicle that tank in the sand and rescue their colleagues but in the course of saving their lives leading to the alleged killing of 23 soldiers injuring one or two officers and few others injured.

Moreover, it was further alleged and reported that when the hundreds of boko haram terrorists were over powering the soldiers, the soldiers were said to have ran for their lives for safety abandoning their vehicles and weapons including arms which the boko harm terrorists ended up whisking away with three vehicles and arms contained in them.

But the reports were denied by the army in a press statement issued by the Director, Army Public Relations Army Headquarters Abuja on Monday 16th July 2018 which degenerated into series of controversy over the alleged missing of Nigerian soldiers and vehicles including the alleged killings of the Nigerian soldiers.

A resident of Bolori area of Maiduguri who is also an IDP from Bama living with relations in Maiduguri city, Malam Bakura Jidda Lawan said, " Yes. We were told by our people who are presently living in Bama that on Friday night or evening I should think, they were hearing heavy gunshots and sound of RPG from some directions of Bama town at distance which lasted for some period of time and made them scared."

"We were asked to remain calm and continue to pray and not to run around or leave our places to any where in the name of escape or hiding.

" I even personally called my uncle and asked him whether he is in Bama and heard same heavy sound and gunshots. He said yes but the soldiers, vigilante groups CJTF and hunters as well as the civil defence men were all over the town in patrol moving street by street while cautioning people not to move out from their residents and camps, my uncle said.

"My uncle added that they were warned not to even come out. Everybody should be off the street as security men are on patrol and informing them that everything was under control. People should not panic. Everything is in control and nothing will happen to them in Bama", Bakura said.

While Hajiya Fati Yagana Abur, a returnee IDP house wife in Bama town in a telephone conversation with our The Nigerian Voice from Maiduguri said, " We are actually confused and scared my brother. It seems something is wrong outside the town but not too far away from Bama as we hear the sound."

"Please tell us the truth. Are we safe here in Bama with all these gunshots and heavy sound. Yes. We are intact within the house but scared. All the children are around me in the house. Security people are heard making announcement and advising people to stay in doors meanwhile as things are under control.

" No. I am.not awre of any casualty of killing of any soldier or missing of any vehicle as a woman where will I go to see or find out this information. We stay in doors and only go out to the market to buy ingredients and foodstuff for the children to cook. That's all that we do here," Hajiya Fati said.

A trader, selling provisions in Bama mini market, Mustapha Ajiri said," we heard of the news on our way from Maiduguri to Bama when we were coming back to Bama after buying some items usually from Maiduguri and transporting them to Bama.

"My brother, Adam Bakolomi called me to tell me not to return to Bama now as the road is not good. That they heard strange gunshots and heavy sound for sometimes. Seems, the soldiers are in exchange of fire with the boko Haram boys not too far from Bama town.

" This is the reason why we can not go back to Bama hence decided to make a u turn when I alerted the commercial driver who waited till the situation improves. Other people told us at the Bama motor park in Maiduguri on our return to the park in Maiduguri that some vehicles were made to return by the military on their way to Bama at Konduga on the basis that the road was not good.

"That they should wait a little to see how far the road will be free and safe for motorists and riders as keke NAPEP also ride on the road with passengers.

"But we learnt that the boko Haram insurgents attacked the soldiers and dealt with them, even killing some soldiers and carried away some of the army vehicles. Whether it is true or not, we don't know until we returun home to Bama to confirm," Ajiri said.

This followed media reports from the military two days later that troops repelled Boko Haram assault on them and even neutralised the boko haram terrorists which the Nigerian Army has denied that any of its personnel were missing in the attack by Boko Haram on Saturday.

Some media reported weekend that no fewer than 23 Nigerian soldiers are yet to be accounted for after Boko Haram insurgents ambushed a military convoy at Boboshe village in Bama Local Government Area of Borno.

It was alleged that officers, 18 soldiers and eight trucks were missing after the attack which occurred early on Saturday.

It was also gathered that the military, acting on intelligence, mobilised troops in a convoy of 11 trucks to clear the insurgents from the deserted village and the boko Haram insurgents were believed to have been those who escaped the ongoing offensive by the military to flush out Boko Haram terrorists in the fringes of Sambisa Forest and the Lake Chad region.

However, it was alleged that a competent military source told NAN that the insurgents in their hundreds ambushed the troops, and in the process many of them have been missing.

The source disclosed that only three of the 11 trucks deployed in the area returned to their base in Maiduguri, after suffering huge loss in the battle with the insurgents.

Where media quoted the source as saying: “There was a quick response by the army when they received reports that hundreds of the insurgents gathered at Boboshe on the Maiduguri-Konduga-Bama road."

" The insurgents ambushed the gallant soldiers. Only three of the 11 trucks returned to the base. It is not clear what happened but it was assumed the soldiers were missing following the ambush.”

“Dozens of soldiers are feared dead after a Boko Haram attack Saturday on a military base in remote northeast Nigeria" which the Nigerian army dismissed as “untrue” and “misleading” reports on the alleged missing soldiers and military vehicles in an attack coordinated by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, urging people to disregard it.

In a statement in Maiduguri, last Monday, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu, said: “The Nigerian Army wishes to state categorically that the report is blown out of proportion by the media."

"Contrary to the report, the Nigerian Army wishes to put the record straight on the issue and assure members of the public, particularly residents of the northeast, to disregard the report, as their safety is guaranteed.

“The Nigeria Army wishes to state that there was an attempted attack on troops at Kwakwa and Chingori communities in the Bama area of Borno State by suspected Boko Haram terrorists as a result of difficult terrain where our vehicles (were) bogged down.

“The terrorists also attempted to cart away troops’ operational vehicles, but were successfully repelled by our gallant troops with the support of the Nigerian Air Force.”

Moreover, Brigadier General Chukwu stated that the troops rather killed 22 boko haram insurgents while several others escaped with gunshot wounds. He said efforts were being intensified by the troops to get the fleeing terrorists.

He added that one officer and a soldier, who sustained injuries in the attack, were receiving medical attention at a military medical facility, and tasked the media to always verify facts.

“Certain facts must be reported with caution, particularly now that numerous successes have been recorded by the troops in the fight against insurgency,” Chukwu said, urging people to go about their normal businesses, as the army is on top of the situation.

But BBC’s Africa security correspondent, Tomi Oladipo, said: “The news agency, AFP, stands by its report that a second jihadist attack on Nigerian troops in as many days was even more deadly and included an army base being overrun. It adds that hundreds of troops are unaccounted for after the attack.

Few days later, precisely Wednesday, the Nigerian Army further made a statement in respect of the boko Haram attack on troops in Jilli village of Yobe state stating that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai and his team have been in the Theatre in the last 48 hours to access the Operational development in the North East, particularly Northern Borno and have just concluded strategies to improve on the State of Security of the general area.

Brigadier General Texas Chukwu , the Director Army Public Relations in the statement said that Jilli is a border town between Borno and Yobe states with close access to Niger Republic.

According to him, the attack in Jilli was very unfortunate but has been brought under control as our troops have since reoccupied the location and are exploiting ahead. In most asymmetric operations incessant attacks of this nature are not uncommon.

The wounded soldiers are presently receiving treatment in the Military Hospital. Military operations are normally of strategic national security value and the media need to be very cautious when reporting some of these development that has national security implications.

The North East of Nigeria remains very safe and the general public are advised to remain law abiding and go about their businesses.