Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has again insisted that he is winning in the battle against Islamic terror group, Boko Haram.
Releasing a statement through his spokesman, Garba Shehu, Buhari declared that the country’s military had “significantly weakened Boko Haram’s military capability to invade and hold Nigerian territory unchallenged.”
Responding to a recent attack in Garkida which resulted in five churches being burnt down, Buhari continued: “These occasional and episodic attacks on poor civilians by the terrorists are mere propaganda efforts to portray them as strong in order to fool the public into believing that they haven’t been militarily weakened by our gallant troops.”
According to International Christian Concern, however, troops mounted a feeble response to the attack.
“Reports emerged that they had troops located in Garkida who were unable to or unwilling to respond to the attack that took place there for many hours,” ICC noted. “The worst of these reports stated that the military actually retreated from Garkida, allowing the terrorists to burn down many homes, churches, and kidnap an unknown number of civilians.”
Boko Haram has been ramping up its efforts in recent months. In January alone, at least 250 people were killed by the group.
The Nigerian military, too, has been accused of razing villages to the ground and displacing thousands of civilians as it attempts to fight back against the terror group.
In a damning report, human rights group Amnesty International said the military had “forcibly displaced entire villages” during its so-called offensives against the militias. They have also been accused of detaining civilians without any evidence.
“These brazen acts of razing entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated as possible war crimes,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria. “They repeat a longstanding pattern of the Nigerian military’s brutal tactics against the civilian population. Forces allegedly responsible for such violations must be suspended immediately and brought to justice.”
Witnesses on the ground have also indicated that the military is staging photo-ops to make it look like they are rescuing civilians from the terror group. The reality is reportedly very different indeed, with many locals saying that Boko Haram fighters are nowhere near their villages.
“They say they saved us from Boko Haram, but it’s a lie,” explained one man. “Boko Haram isn’t coming to our village.”
“If Boko Haram had been visiting our place, we have our own animals, our own harvest – do you think they wouldn’t have taken those?” added another woman. “The [Boko Haram] boys aren’t close to us.”
Amnesty International believes that the burning down of civilian homes could amount to “war crimes.”
“The Nigerian government must not brush these violations under the carpet,” said Osai Ojigho. “They must be investigated, and alleged perpetrators must be prosecuted. Necessary steps must also be taken to ensure that military operations do not further forcibly displace civilian populations.”