Former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar has expressed his shock over a report published by the Wall Street Journal that at least 1,000 Nigerian soldiers killed by the Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) were secretly buried in unmarked graves.
He described the report as heartbreaking and said Nigerians are entitled to the truth concerning the allegations.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr Abubakar said he could “not fathom that in the space of a year, scores of great patriots were killed and buried secretly without their families being told.
“The men and women of our armed forces are our first, second and last defence against our domestic and foreign enemies and should be treated with love, respect, dignity and appreciation for the invaluable service they render to Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Abubakar, who is also the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the alleged cover-up of the deaths of scores of soldiers is a national emergency that should shock all statesmen and leaders of thoughts into action to save Nigeria.
He said he was hesitant to believe that “such a grand scale of deceit is even possible under a democracy, such as Nigeria is supposed to be.”
He urged called for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by a non-partisan jurist to investigate the findings of the Wall Street Journal.
“While this is occurring, I also strongly urge that a panel of inquiry comprising distinguished former military officers be set up to investigate and report to Nigerians the true state of the war on terror and what must be done to ensure Nigeria brings a speedy end to the ongoing insurgency,” he said.
According to him, “Nigeria must ensure prudent use of finances, so we can redistribute national resources in such a way that ensures that our military and security forces are well armed and well-remunerated”.
The Wall Street Journal published the article on Wednesday containing the alleged burial and cover-up of the death of the soldiers.
According to the article, “the sprawling secret graveyard in Maiduguri and an official cemetery at the base, the operational command for the north-eastern front in Borno State, now hold the bodies of at least 1,000 soldiers killed since the terror groups began an offensive last summer”.
“After dark, the bodies of soldiers are covertly transported from a mortuary that at times gets so crowded the corpses are delivered by truck, according to Nigerian soldiers, diplomats and a senior government official. The bodies are laid by flashlight into trenches dug by infantrymen or local villagers paid a few dollars per shift,” it said.
The article also said the Nigerian military and the Presidency did not respond to requests for comment on the war, casualties and the secret cemeteries.