A Nigerian state governor said Nigerian soldiers, not Boko Haram, attacked his humanitarian aid convoy last week in Baga, a town in northeastern Borno State, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported on Monday.
Armed militants attacked Borno state governor Babagana Zulum on July 29 as he traveled to the towns of Monguno and Baga to deliver food supplies to people displaced by ongoing regional turmoil. Most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) seek refuge from violence caused by Boko Haram, a Borno State-based terrorist organization waging an ongoing campaign of jihad throughout northeastern Nigeria.
Zulum survived the ambush and said in a press interview on July 30 that he believes the perpetrators were not Boko Haram, as many assumed, but rather soldiers in the Nigerian Army.
“It is a complete sabotage … I cannot end my interview without clearly stating what happened yesterday [July 29]. As far as I am concerned, there was no Boko Haram … It was a serious shooting by the Nigerian Armed Forces while ‘residing’ in Baga. The situation is very embarrassing,” Zulum said.
The Borno State governor’s statement “underscores the disturbing security situation in Borno,” suggesting “either sabotage by some soldiers or poor communication between the soldiers in Mr. Zulum’s convoy and those on the ground in Baga who shot at the convoy,” the Premium Times observed.
Zulum questioned why the Nigerian Army forces stationed near Baga have failed to secure the town from Boko Haram attacks despite being deployed nearby for over a year.
“You have been here for over one year now, there are 1,181 soldiers here; if you cannot take over Baga which is less than 5km [3 miles] from your base, then we should forget about Baga. I will inform the [Nigerian] Chief of Army Staff to redeploy the men to other places that they can be useful,” Zulum was quoted by Nigeria’s Channels TV as saying after the attack.
In his speech on Thursday, Zulum said that Baga’s residents will be forced to organize militias to secure the town, in the absence of a meaningful military presence.
“Baga is important … We shall organize the community to take destiny into their own hands so that we can occupy Baga,” the governor said.
The Nigerian Army claims to be investigating the attack.
“The Nigerian Army wants to reassure the general public that this will be interrogated with a view to forestalling future re-occurance,” Nigerian Army spokesman Sagir Musa said on July 30.
In mid-July, at least 356 Nigerian soldiers resigned en masse from the Nigerian Army, citing “low morale” in the military’s losing battle against Boko Haram. The jihadists have taken advantage of lockdowns and restrictions on people’s movement during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic to launch a resurgence in Borno State and surrounding areas in recent months. According to U.N. estimates, Boko Haram has killed at least 36,000 people and displaced two million more in northeastern Nigeria since the jihadists began their violent insurgency in 2009.