Nigerian Army falsely accuses PREMIUM TIMES of disparaging troops, supporting Boko Haram

FILE PHOTO: Recapture of Mubi Town

The Nigerian Army on Wednesday accused PREMIUM TIMES of allegedly displaying sympathies for Boko Haram in a shocking response to this newspaper’s dispassionate reporting highlighting the suffering of our troops who are locked in a long-drawn battle with the terror sect.

PREMIUM TIMES reporting on the anti-insurgency war in the north-east has exposed how army authorities from time to time left troops on the battlefront hungry and thirsty while also failing to adequately arm and equip them.

However, during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Lucky Irabor, the Theatre Commander of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’, claimed reporting by this medium were not a true reflection of the situation on the ground— and warned the paper of dire consequences.

“Every publication from PREMIUM TIMES either eulogises Boko Haram or mischievously emphasise, beyond proportion, the challenges of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole,” Mr. Irabor, a major general, said.

Mr. Irabor’s attack on this paper appears a frustrating response to this paper’s capacity to factually report events as they unfold on the battlefront despite the best efforts by authorities to conceal information from Nigerians.

Military insiders had told this paper weeks ago that the army had placed our paper under close watch as it launched extensive discreet investigation to determine who our numerous sources are.

In his speech on Wednesday, Mr. Irabor made specific references to PREMIUM TIMES reportage of the war over the past two months.

He said he was miffed by the paper’s series on missing soldiers in October.

The articles provided details of how Nigerian soldiers manning a Forward Operation Base in Gashigar, Borno State, came under Boko Haram’s heavy firepower on October 17.

After initial resistance, the troops, who told us they were poorly equipped and unpaid, abandoned their base and scampered for safety.

As they retreated, some soldiers jumped into River Yobe to escape the advancing insurgents. The terrorists opened fire nonetheless, killing some of the troops and wounding others.

The attack also left scores of soldiers missing, including K. Yusuf, a lieutenant colonel and commander of the 145 Task Force Battalion.

For several weeks, PREMIUM TIMES stayed on the story with updates, including how the Army raised a panel to probe the incident as well as the notifications sent out to families of some of the missing personnel.

Efforts by the Army to deny or play down the unfortunate development were unsuccessful.

The Army was also irked by exclusive reports about a revolt that nearly resulted in an attack on the General Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Army 7 Division in Maiduguri.

The soldiers who revolted were attached to “Operation Rescue Finale” launched earlier this month to dislodge Boko Haram insurgents from Sambisa Forest — a massive reserve which has long been occupied by the terrorists— and rescue civilians trapped there.

The soldiers, mostly of the Nigerian Army 21 Brigade in Bama, rioted early Friday after they were left without food for more than 24 hours.

When the GOC, Victor Ezegwu, eventually arrived in a helicopter bearing foods and other supplies on Friday morning, the troops swooped on him and rushed the snacks, food and water he brought.

They removed all the supplies, including parts for operational vehicles and other equipment, before moving towards the GOC in an attempt to attack him, our sources said.

An abridged video of that incident has since appeared online.

This medium also reported that the tumult came eight months after a similar situation played out in Alagarno.

At the time, troops fighting to take control of the town attempted to attack their GOC after they were left for five days without water, this newspaper reported, based on information obtained from top-level military sources.

The reference to the April 2016 riot was confirmed in a newly released video posted on YouTube by some unknown persons.

Still, Mr. Irabor dismissed the reports as “hateful representation of the medium’s wishes for the troops.”

Mr. Irabor called on media bodies such as the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists to denounce this newspaper and “defend their national security interest.”

The major general marked PREMIUM TIMES out as the only media outfit in Nigeria that had been reporting stories the Army finds uncomfortable and praised other media outlets for their cooperation.

“Premium Times is isolated,” he said. “The rest of the Media have (sic) shown patriotism, commitment and support for the operation. I wish to therefore commend these patriotic media houses and urge them to continue in that regard.”

PREMIUM TIMES has however asked its journalists to disregard the attempt by the army to intimidate or muzzle the medium.

“We must not be intimidated by the Army’s claim,” the paper’s Managing Editor, Idris Akinbajo, wrote in an email to reporters on Thursday morning. “We should continue with our courageous, fair and balanced reporting and ensure we continue to act as thorough professionals. That has remained and should continue to remain our watchword whether the Army and other security agencies like it or not.”

On Thursday evening, Mr. Akinbajo added, “The Army has a habit of labelling anyone who exposes its atrocities and failures of working against Nigeria’s interest.

“We are proud of our reporting and stand by our stories and will continue to act with utmost professionalism and patriotism in not only reporting on the army and Boko Haram, but in all our reports.

“The Nigerian Army and the establishment should by now know that our reporting are rooted in strong ethics and in huge consideration for national interest and the welfare of our people, including our troops.

“We will never be intimidated in this service to our country and its people.”


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  • thusspokez

    However, during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Lucky Irabor, the Theatre Commander of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’…warned the paper of dire consequences.

    How dare this idiøt warn a newspaper? What is the ‘big gorilla’ going to do to a newspaper that is reporting the facts as it sees it? I hear that he is a major general of some sort –The Nigerian army is a poor shadow of what it once was. (sigh!) The ‘big gorilla’ needs to learn manners and stop boxing his chest at the media.

    • linkhadj.

      Be very careful. Remember we are at war and in Military Law there is provision for sanctions against any person, institutions or corporate body which / whose covert or covert action amounts or is likely to amount to aiding, supporting or encouraging enemy activities. The exra-ordinary nature of war time allows extra-ordinary actions against enemy supporters and all those urging you on now will not be around to save your neck.

      • GusO

        Thank God, we are not under a military government that would muzzle the press.

      • Otile

        What are the troops fighting for in the North East, their is no crude oil there, what are they dying for?

      • thusspokez

        Be very careful. Remember we are at war and in Military Law there is provision for sanctions against any person, institutions or corporate body.

        Nonsense, you are ignorant; and you probably meant, the Armed Forces Act. Anyway, If a law is called “military law” then it would only apply to those serving in the military.

        Besides, Nigeria is not in a state of emergency — declaration, which is the prerogative of the president and NOT the military.

    • paul irumundomon

      You remember dele giwa, the army killed him. They are capable of doing bad stuff. That is why Nigeria is a stand still nation, a culture of hate when truth and facts are looking at you in the face.

  • thusspokez

    Lucky Irabor: Quit Trying to Intimidate The Nigerian Press !!!

    “Every publication from PREMIUM TIMES either eulogises Boko Haram or mischievously emphasise, beyond proportion, the challenges of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole,” Mr. Irabor, a major general, said.

    Silly intimidation tactics. Lucky Irabor should stop being puerile or trying to intimidate the media. Someone should remind the ‘big gorilla’ that Nigeria is a democracy and freedom of the press is enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, there!

  • Sword of Damocles

    Well is any one surprised? the BEST(PT) is being attacked. This is emblematic of what Nigeria has turned into over the last 20 years, an UNMITIGATED DISGRACE in EVERY ramification. You name it, and we do it wrong, everything, even the things within our control(forgive me, stealing, dishonesty, immorality, materialism, incompetency, stealing from your own country, killing, maiming, lack of empathy & unity/love, we have PHD in all these). The biggest congregation of black people on planet Earth, and this is the best we can do in managing our affairs. A mirror does not lie….. SMH

  • Impulse400

    I think the caption should read “Guilty Senior officers of the Niegrian Army Falsely accusses PREMIUM TIMES…” because not all Army Officers agree with this Theater Commander’

  • Message66

    Ever since Vanguard, Punch and The Nation started reporting celebrity Abuja news and Aso Rock nonsense, I shifted attention to you guys. Beyond that, you guys are factual, straight to the point; you take no sides, you report the story as is and allow the reader arrive at his/her own conclusion. DO NOT PAY ANY ATTENTION TO THE NIGERIAN ARMY. They are one of the most corrupt and most unprofessional army in the world. A pervasive culture of corruption and denials exists and is well oiled in the army. Senior level officers withhold/embezzle entitlements due lower ranks and no one does anything about it. You see our soldiers in videos and you wonder how we have an Army chief and senior officers that allow soldiers of the Nigerian army to look like rag tag rebels, very poorly supplied and equipped. Even when Executive Outcomes (“mercenaries” hired by GEJ government) came down to train and form the 72 mobile strike force (now integrated into the Armed Forces Special Force) they practically had to beg the army hierarchy to provide much needed equipment and materials for the training. Just spend a little time interacting with lower and mid level soldiers, you’d get the drift or discuss with E.O. personnel. Just like the Nigeria Police, the NA has lost every bit of credibility with the recent videos (thank God for social media and smart phones, they would have denied it with a straight face).
    Let’s analyse this: Soldiers are engaging a poorly resourced and outnumbered enemy within their own territory/country, yet the army hierarchy cannot maintain supply to its troops in the field – basic supplies like water and food to its own soldiers? They weren’t even fighting in a foreign country. What would happen if we were invaded by a highly sophisticated army like Algeria or smaller but capable armies like Cameroon or Chad? na sorry we for hear. Tomorrow them go boast say dem be giant of Africa.
    Pay no attention to their underhand tactics and please continue with your honest and factual work. If a video showing the plight of suffering Nigerian soldiers means support for boko haram, then we’re all guilty of supporting boko haram.

    • thusspokez

      If a video showing the plight of suffering Nigerian soldiers means support for boko haram, then we all guilty of supporting boko haram.

      Well done, you vividly summarised the serious flaws in Lucky Irabor thinking process and argument.

      • Bigtin

        Our Country as a system is flawed ….horrible! Re-program Nigeria, pls.

    • GusO

      I couldn’t agree more. I am amazed at the ineptitude of the Nigerian Army. How did they fall so far? Rag-tag clothes, lack of food and water, no helmets, lack of equipment, no night goggles or fighting vehicles that are all weather and night-imaging, and the list goes on. Yet, they have been fighting this Boko Haram insurgency since at least 2011. Either the top army commanders lack imagination and military knowledge or they are so corrupt that they stole the funds meant for our long suffering front line fighting soldiers.

      • Otile

        Don’t ask, Thief Buratai, Abba Kyari, and other Buhari relatives looted the money meant for logistics. Replace them today and watch whether you will not see palpable improvement.

  • KBE

    Those who are for PT are more than those who are against. The army and indeed the federal government should consider these words from John Mahama of Ghana after he lost his reelection bid.
    “I have learnt that the calls of the noisy minority cannot be ignored because they largely shape the opinions of the silent minority, who we politicians exploit for our selfish gain. I have learnt that not all those who criticised us hated us. Sometimes the best way to express your love for someone is to be critical of their actions. If I should ever return, I will not display a “dead-goat syndrome” towards disaffection of the masses. When those who opposed us cried foul, we retorted, “Hate can’t win.” Tonight, however, I am the first to admit that some hate can win. This election has taught me that the hate of corruption can win. It has taught me that hate of incompetence can win. Our defeat has taught me that hate of impunity can win. I have learnt that hate of mediocrity and deception definitely wins. And I have learnt that hating evil will forever triumph over the love of evil”. By President John Mahama of Ghana.

  • Eze

    please keep the good work going premium times. yours is not to wait for the army’s accolades. keep exposing the rot in our society. I just hope the officers and men whose rights you fighting for in the report will appreciate one day and pray for you for bringing their plight to the public. buratai and his colleagues in government will soon pay for the death of innocent people they have killed through negligence and corruption. may God be with you premium times and Sahara reporters for being the best alternative source for us.

  • Iskacountryman

    nyamiri general…you use the helicopter to supply and resupply…not for a photo op…

  • marc umeh

    Yeah , they want to silence premiun times. If they are publishing falsehood then let the army go to court. But they won’t dare do such. They consider it ” patrotic” , to tell their lies they way the want it or remain silent.

    • Patriotico222

      WHEN TROOPS ARE MISSING SHOULD PREMIUM TIMES TELL LIES THAT TROOPS ARE NOT MISSING?
      PATRIOTISM IS NOT LIES-TELLING – RATHER PATRIOTISM MEANS WHAT PREMIUM TIMES IS DOING.
      FOR IN THE CONTEXT OF JOURNALISM, PATRIOTISM SIMPLY MEANS THE FIDELITY TO FACTS.

      • marc umeh

        Yeah bro , they hate inconvenient truth. But see no evil , hear no evil and be a “good ” citizen otherwise they muzzle you– that seems to be their world view.

  • Muhammad

    Long story

  • JasV

    By the way,opening fire on them, killing some and leaving unknown number of them fatally wounded is tautology of the highest order. Those fatally wounded are dead so killing some and fatally wounding some is repetitive.