The Nigerian military for several weeks ignored repeated warnings of impending attacks on Baga and Monguno by Boko Haram and failed to take action to protect civilians, said global human rights organisation, Amnesty International.
Amnesty’s claim corroborates PREMIUM TIMES exclusive report of January 26 which indicated the Nigerian military received reliable intelligence report indicating that the Boko Haram sect would launch a massive attack on Monguno, but that yet troops were taken by surprise when the insurgents struck early Sunday, suggesting the 5 Brigade stationed in the area failed to prepare adequately for the group’s onslaught.
Relying on the information obtained for a top military officer and evidence gathered from other sources, Amnesty said commanders at the military base in Baga consistently informed the military headquarters in Abuja of a looming threat of Boko Haram attack and in November and December 2014 and repeatedly requested foreinforcements but the military hierarchy paid no attention to their requests.
Hundreds of lives would have been saved if the military hierarchy had responded to these requests with adequate reinforcements.
On January 3, the terrorist group sacked the base of the Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF, in Baga and unleashed a devastating attack on the civilian population in the town. Media reports said over 2,000 people were killed in the attack.
Although the Nigerian army denied the casualty figure and said not more than 150 people, including insurgents, died in Baga but subsequent satellite feed by AI showed widespread destruction of properties in the town that suggests that the 2000 casualty figure might be closer to the truth.
Amnesty also said the military had advance warning that the insurgents were planning to attack the military base in Monguno before the January 25 attack.
Long before the attack, soldiers based at Baga had informed the military headquarters of Boko Haram patrols and build-ups in the area. They also reported large civilian movement from towns and villages in the area, which points to the threat of an attack.
“This attack was expected because Boko Haram warned the inhabitants of Baga and surrounding villages almost two months ago that they would be coming to attack the troops and the civilian JTF [Joint Task Force],” a military source told the human rights group.
The group also claimed the terrorist told inhabitants of Baga after the January 3 attack that their “next target is Monguno.”
“There was a warning. Everyone was aware. Boko Haram came on Wednesday last week [21 January] and asked the villagers [in nearby Ngurno] to leave because they are coming to attack the barracks. The villagers told the soldiers,” a resident of Monguno told AI.
“It is clear from this evidence that Nigeria’s military leadership woefully and repeatedly failed in their duty to protect civilians of Baga and Monguno despite repeated warnings about an impending threat posed by Boko Haram,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director.
“These attacks are an urgent wake-up call for the Nigerian leadership, the African Union and the international community. It is essential to protect hundreds of thousands of civilians in north east Nigeria from Boko Haram’s continued onslaught,” he added.
“Nigerian authorities have a responsibility to take all feasible measures to protect the civilian population, including by assisting with an evacuation of those who wished to flee and transporting them to safer areas. They also have a responsibility to inform civilians of risks and dangers. According to witnesses, the local military did not make an effort to do this,” AI said in a statement.