A Nigerian soldier said he witnessed incidents that suggest some Nigerian military commanders are working with Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group blamed for thousands of deaths since 2009.
In an exclusive interview with Voice of America (VOA)’s Hausa service, he described how his military unit, based in the northeastern Borno State region, was ambushed by Boko Haram fighters.
The soldier, who did not want to be identified, said the commander of a nearby military unit, based in the town of Bama, recently sought assistance from his unit in carrying out a raid.
The soldier said when the two military units joined up, they were given different uniforms. The Bama unit commander gave his own troops green uniforms. The soldier said his unit received tan “desert camouflage” uniforms.
When the troops reached the battle area, the soldier said the commander of the better-equipped Bama unit suddenly withdrew his forces, leaving the remaining troops to fend for themselves against Boko Haram fighters.
Speaking in Hausa, he said, “We had only light arms and our men were being picked off one after the other.”
The soldier also said he recognized some of the Boko Haram fighters as his former military trainers in Kontagora, a town near the capital, Abuja.
“We realized that some of them were actually mercenaries from the Nigerian army... hired to fight us,” he said.
This soldier and others have said that too often, commanders have pocketed money that was supposed to be used to help equip units.
Atlantic Council Africa Center Director Peter Pham said the soldier’s account could have merit.
“It certainly would not surprise me that it is happening,” said Pham.
Pham said the goal should be to figure out how and why collaboration between military officers and terror groups could happen.
“What’s critical is to understand, if there is this collusion, to understand whether it is a collusion born of corruption, born of desperation simply to avoid combat that would result in casualties for the men under your command, or if it is born of ideological sympathy with the insurgents,” he said.
Reacting to the allegation the defence Spokesman Major. Gen Chris Olukolade said that the Nigerian Army is disciplined for a soldier to engage in such radio interview. According to him let no terrorist propogandist hide under the guise of not wanting to disclose source and present imposters as speaking for the Nigerian Army. Definitely we have strong feeling and conviction that the fellow is not a soldier. Be
that as it may, be we are taking every utterances seriously to sift the shaft from the wheat. We have our very strong doubt as to the geniuneness of the character in that interview.