from Africa in Transition

Are Nigerian Military Officers in Court Martial for Helping Boko Haram?

June 05, 2014

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Corruption

Wars and Conflict

Boko Haram operatives often wear Nigerian military uniforms, use weapons from Nigerian armories, and have attacked military facilities where gates were mysteriously left unlocked. The Nigerian military is as fractured along ethnic and religious lines as other parts of Nigerian society. Hence, many Nigerians think that Boko Haram has penetrated successfully the Nigerian military.

Leadership, a respected Abuja daily associated with opposition to the Jonathan government, reported on June 3 that fifteen senior military officers including ten generals have been tried by court martial and have been found guilty of providing information and ammunition to Boko Haram. The newspaper cites unnamed military sources, one of whom it says alleged that the generals were also in cahoots with some northern politicians to make the country ungovernable. Leadership’s military sources provide no names of the accused, including the ten generals.

Moreover, the newspaper also reports that it has been unable to confirm the story from the defense headquarters spokesman. According to Leadership, the spokesman did say “a lot is happening. Those suspected are being tried, and this is why it is difficult to confirm or deny the story. But whenever the final verdicts are taken on these trials, the press would be briefed by the appropriate officers.” Subsequently the defense headquarters has gone further in denying the story: “no general in the Nigerian Army was under court-martial... The defense headquarters wishes to state categorically that there is no truth whatsoever in the report published in a section of the media.”

Other newspapers carried the story and attribute it to Leadership. They provide no further details.

So what is going on here? The belief that certain elements in the upper reaches of the military in collusion with northern politicians are using Boko Haram to make the northern part of the country ungovernable in the run-up to the 2015 elections is widely held, especially in the southern part of the country. If the court martials are taking place, and if they are credible, then there would, indeed, be evidence of some military collusion with Boko Haram, if not necessarily with northern politicians. But the "ifs" are important here. Assuming trials are taking place, and the defense spokesman reference to “a lot is happening” would seem to indicate that some sort of military judicial process is underway, despite statements to the contrary, the issue would be their credibility. That remains to be seen.

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