Members of the ‘Civilian-JTF’ and soldiers of the Nigeria Army had a confrontation on Monday evening in Maiduguri over attempts by solders to shield five gunmen arrested by the youth vigilante group.
Soldiers were forced to shoot their guns as the youth vigilante (called Civilian-JTF), armed with machete, clubs, and spears tried to prevent the former from taking away the five suspects. The vigilante accused the soldiers of complicity in the Boko Haram killings.
In the process, one member of the Civilian-JTF reportedly died of gunshot and others injured.
The angry youth later took to the streets along Maiduguri-Gambo-Ngala road blocking the highway, causing heavy traffic jam and chanting anti-military slogan.
The trouble started when the Civilian-JTF, who were tired of the way the military had been handling the escalating Boko Haram killings resolved last Saturday after the twin blast in Maiduguri to embark on a stop and search operation.
The efforts, according to the leaders of the youth vigilante, yielded effort as over 58 members of Boko Haram who had infiltrated the town were arrested; some with undetonated IEDs, others with AK47 rifles hidden under their cars.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that on Monday, the Civilian-JTF, in their usual thorough search of vehicles, arrested five men in plain clothes with AK47 rifles hidden under the seats of their car, while attempting to enter Maiduguri.
“When our members asked questions, the five men said they were military operatives. We doubted them because, if they are soldiers as they claimed, they should be in uniforms, and should not be moving with rifles while on mufti,” said one Yusuf Muhammed, a member of Civilian-JTF. “We also doubted their claims because they were coming from the direction of Mafa village where 33 civilians were killed and many properties destroyed just less than 24 hours earlier, so we say we did not trust them.”
“It was in the process of this interrogation that some military operatives suddenly arrived the scene and after asking some questions, they declared to us that the suspects were actually soldiers and that they came to take them away.
“It was then we resisted the soldiers attempt to take away those five suspects who did not give any clear identification as soldiers. The soldiers started shooting, which led to the killing of a youth and injuring some others,” he added.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the soldiers succeeded in whisking away the suspects, and in anger the youth and some residents took to the streets blocking Gamboru road, Customs area, Bama road and Ruwan Zafi, as they continued to chant “sojoji ne Boko Haram, Soja ogan-Boko Haram (meaning soldiers are the real Boko Haram; soldiers are masters of Boko Haram).”
Though the military is yet to issue any statement to clear the air on the true identity of the five men saved by uniformed soldiers from being mobbed, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that during the Mafa attack, some of the soldiers there who could not stand the superior fire power of the Boko Haram, had to flee into the bushes.
“They could be the ones trying to get back to Maiduguri while disguising as civilians in order not to be caught by the Boko Haram”, explained a Army sergeant, who asked not to be named as he has no authority to speak on the matter.