Nigerian military warns journalists, visitors, over Chibok, other operation areas

The military says unapproved access by journalists and others to operation areas will draw consequences.

The Nigerian military on Sunday warned journalists and visitors monitoring its operations against Boko Haram in Nigeria’s northeast, saying unapproved access to operation areas will no longer be tolerated.

The military said it would not be held responsible for “any unsavoury outcome of such movement” which it said amounted to “undue obstruction to operations”.

“The Defence Headquarters has noted the presence of a large number of tourists, journalists and adventurers of diverse interests moving about in areas where security operations are currently ongoing especially in Adamawa and Borno States without the necessary security cover or clearance. This trend constitutes unnecessary risk to the persons especially the foreigners involved. It is also an undue obstruction to operations,” defence spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, said in a statement Sunday.

The rare warning came more than a month after the abduction of more than 250 schoolgirls by extremist sect, Boko Haram, an attack that has terribly humiliated the Nigerian military.

The security forces have failed to rescue the girls and have been widely criticised over its handling of the Boko Haram crisis.

Global rights group, Amnesty International, said the military received advance warning about the kidnapping in Chibok, Borno State, but failed to act to stop it.

The United States and the United Kingdom, helping with effort to rescue the girls, have also criticised the military’s human rights record, as well as its fading capacity to stage a firm operation against the increasingly brutal Boko Haram.

A mutiny by frustrated troops on Thursday, added to the embarrassment. The soldiers, disgruntled by poor welfare and equipment, opened fire at the motorcade of their senior commander, Ahmed Mohammed, a Major General, whom they blamed for the deaths of their colleagues.

Coming at a time local and international media are focused on Nigeria over the Boko Haram crisis, with hundreds of journalists poring into Borno State and other parts of the country, the warning from the military may be seen as a move to gag independent reporting of the crisis.

Major General Olukolade said “Much as the military has nothing to hide and believes in the freedom of movement in the country” there was need for people to recognize the status of certain places as operational area.

“Anyone violating the existing procedures for coverage or movement in the mission area does so at his or her own peril as the security forces should not be held responsible for any unsavoury outcome of such movement,” he warned.

He said necessary arrangement will continue to be made for the protection of persons and visitors whose movement is “duly vetted and in line with development in the security situation on ground in particular mission area”.

“The general public is hereby informed that obstructive, suspicious or risky movement of visitors will not be condoned in any mission and operational area in the country,” Major General Olukolade said.

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