A Brigadier General, Enitan Ransome-Kuti, his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel G.A. Suru and some other senior officers have been arrested by the authorities of the Nigerian military over their failure to repel the attack on the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force [MNJTF] in Baga.
Mr. Ransome-Kuti, the Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, his Chief of Staff and the other senior officers were detained shortly after they arrived Maiduguri from Monguno where they and their troops took refuge after they were dislodged from Baga.
The arrest of the officers was exclusively disclosed to PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday by reliable military insiders who requested not to be named as they were not authorised to speak on the matter.
Also arrested, our sources said, are the Commanding Officers of the 134 and 174 Battalions — a Lieutenant Colonel Haruna and a Major Aliyu. The two battalions are under the MNJTF but were also dislodged from their locations during the Boko Haram offensive of January 3.
These senior officers, now being held at the officers’ mess of the 21 Armoured Brigade, Maiduguri, were arrested over their inability to repel the Baga attack in spite of the weapons in their arsenal. They have also been asked to account for the weapons lost to the insurgents.
Mr. Aliyu is an acting commanding officer of the 134 battalion. PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the substantive commanding officer of the battalion, a Lieutenant Colonel Etang is already facing court-martial following a previous attack on his battalion on November 5, 2014.
Our sources said military authorities are disappointed that the attack on Baga was not repelled by troops of both battalions and the MNJTF headquarters despite all weapons made available to them.
The sources said the military authorities are especially angry with Mr. Ransome-Kuti for his inability to lead his troop to counter the Boko Haram onslaught despite the high calibre weapons and ammunition made available to his formation.
The Brigadier General is also send to have gone underground for four days after the MNJTF was dislodged.
“Nobody was able to reach him and nobody could tell where he was,” one of our sources said. “The suspicion is that he was roaming around Maiduguri in mufti while his troop were in disarray. He and his officers have to account for everything.”
Also, the Brigade Commander of the 5 Brigade, Monguno, a Brigadier General Yekini, who was injured in the Monguno attack on Sunday, is yet to be arrested because he is still receiving treatment for injuries sustained during the attack, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
He has been placed under close watch on his hospital bed, and might be fully detained once he is discharged from hospital, our sources said.
However, Defence spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, declined to confirm or deny the arrests.
He however said it is not unusual for the military to hold officers accountable for the tasks assigned to them.
“Every officer who is given a mission must be made accountable for his performance, and that is not necessarily an indictment of the officer; at least until investigations are concluded,” Mr. Olukolade, a Major General, said.
Suspected members of the Boko Haram sect had on January 3 attacked the base of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, in Baga, Borno State, dislodging the soldiers.
A senior security official said the attack, which started at about 5 a.m., was one of the fiercest in recent times as soldiers battled to hold their grounds without much success.
The MNJTF was created by defence and military chiefs from the six countries that make up the Lake Chad Basin Commission to combat arms trafficking, terrorism and related cross-border attacks that have continued to rise in the region.
Boko Haram terrorists see the existence of the MNJTF as a major threat to their operations, hence their continued attack on the base and the town with a view to having full control of the area.
In the last two years, Baga town has suffered five major attacks with high casualty – the latest being that of November 2014 when Boko Haram terrorists ambushed fishermen returning from a night fishing expedition and slit the throats of 43 of them.
The terrorists also launched three different attacks on Borno’s three largest towns – Maiduguri, Konduga and Monguno on Sunday. While the attacks on Maiduguri and Konduga were repelled by the Nigerian military, Monguno fell to the the insurgents.
On Monday, PREMIUM TIMES had exclusively reported how, despite warning troops to remain on alert, the leadership of the 5 Brigade failed to take the necessary steps and make the right deployment of men and equipment to check the imminent attack.
The troops were indeed warned to be at alert following intelligence report that terrorists would strike between January 22 and 25.
Despite the warnings, when the terrorists arrived on Sunday, the troops were taken by surprise.
Military insiders said the insurgents arrived at about 2 am on Sunday, parking their Hilux vans deep into the bush, with their headlights on.
Soldiers of the Brigade, who saw the unusual lights, began to shoot in the direction of the vans without knowing that the insurgents had left the vans and advanced close to the Brigade headquarters.
Suddenly, the insurgents began to shoot sporadically. The troop of the Brigade, including those of the Multinational Joint Task Force [MJTF], who were camped at a school inside the barracks after they were dislodged from Baga, engaged the terrorists in a long exchange of gunfire.
The biggest fighting tank owned by the brigade, known as “shika,” killed several insurgents, and wounded several others.
It was such a long battle that the equipment, which provided cover for ground troops, suddenly ran out of ammunition and began to withdraw.
As it withdrew, the rifle men behind also retreated, as the insurgents followed in pursuit. In the process, Brigade Commander, Mr. Yekini and a few other soldiers were wounded. It is not clear the number of soldiers and while 53 insurgents were killed in the attacks.
“We could have overpowered the insurgents, but there was no enough ammunition,” an officer, who participated in the battle, had told PREMIUM TIMES.