The military claimed the New York Times report was false.
The Defence Headquarters has denied a New York Times newspaper report that the Nigerian military was killing innocent civilians in the attempt to flush out Boko Haram insurgents in the three states under emergency rule.
The Federal Government had on May 14, declared a state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
A statement by the Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General A. Olukolade, in Abuja on Friday said the New York Times report that dwelt on “atrocities being committed by the Nigerian military against innocent civilians”, sought to create in the minds of its reader’s an imaginary refugee situation in the area.
“It quoted non-existent people, painted a picture of an army that cannot distinguish between the enemy and unarmed civilians; an army that turns its guns against the same people it is out to protect.
“This is certainly not the Nigerian Armed Forces, and there is no killing of civilians in the on-going operation as New York Times desperately sought to portray.
“Imbued with half- truths, unsubstantiated claims and outright misrepresentations, the report, as in some others carried by their fellows in the certain media, strived in futility to demonise the ongoing operation in the North-East, all with the intention of bringing to disrepute, the character and professionalism of the Nigerian military and security agencies,” the military claimed.
“Apart from the reference to its series of usually faceless sources, there is so far no reasonable evidence of the allegations so zealously presented by the New York Times.
“There is indeed no basis for such situation neither has there been any credible report from responsible quarters in Nigeria,” the military added.
“The claim that ‘Nigerian refugees are pouring into Niger Republic’ despite the unambiguous rebuttal by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Borno State Government is another pointer to the deliberate misrepresentation of facts by New York Times and its allies in the social media.
The military alleged that the foreign media was biased against its operations and asked Nigerian media not to collaborate with her foreign colleagues.
“Indeed, if the foreign media, propelled by whatever ulterior motive, have resolved to whip up resentment against our institutions, it is certainly not incumbent on any of our local media organisations in Nigeria to offer its platform for the orchestration of such mischief.”
“In the light of the foregoing, the Defence Headquarters acting in concert with the Ministry of Defence, wishes to alert Nigerians particularly our local media about this unfortunate tendency and trend in the foreign media.
“The need for Nigerian media to remain patriotic as they have demonstrated in their coverage of the operation so far is again reiterated please,” it said.
The federal government increased the number of deployed soldiers to the three states under emergency rules; with soldiers restricting movements in some areas in the states. All mobile telephone networks, the only functional ones, are also often ordered shut in the affected states, in the soldiers bid to limit communication by the insurgents; a move that has been condemned by residents and which limits, alongside the barricades, residents’ abilities to tell their stories to the public.
Prior to the emergency declaration, the military was accused of several extra-judicial killings and detentions including the alleged murder of over 185 residents of Baga in Borno State in a reprisal attack against insurgents who killed a soldier.