News / Africa

Army, Boko Haram Working Together in Parts of Nigeria?

FILE - People look at smoke rising after suspected Boko Haram Islamists attack a military base in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri.
FILE - People look at smoke rising after suspected Boko Haram Islamists attack a military base in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri.
Pamela Dockins
A Nigerian soldier says he has 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 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.

Government has no comment

VOA has made repeated attempts to get reaction from the Nigerian government for this story but no officials have been willing to speak on the record.

However, in a January 2012 speech, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Boko Haram members have infiltrated his government's executive, legislative and judicial sectors, as well as the police and armed forces.

Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in three northern regions where Boko Haram is active, and launched operations to destroy the group's camps. Despite those efforts, though, large-scale attacks have continued.

Soldier's account "credible"

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.

Apart from some well-trained elite units, Pham said most of Nigeria's military is "woefully underfunded and under-resourced" in terms of equipment and training.

Effects of "systemic corruption"

E.J. Hogendoorn is deputy director of the International Crisis Group's Africa program. The group recently released a detailed report about the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria.

He said Nigeria's military disfunction is part of a broader problem of systemic corruption extending through most government sectors.

Hogendoorn says "drivers," such as bad governance and the inability of state institutions to provide basic services, help create a pool of unemployed youth "ripe for radicalization."

"We argue that even were Boko Haram to be defeated, if you don’t deal with those drivers, you are not going to be able to stabilize either northern Nigeria or the entire country," he said.

Hogendoorn said in order for change to occur, the Nigerian government needs to address corruption and poor governance in a systematic and sustained way.

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by: shuaib muhammad from: lagos Nigeria
May 08, 2014 6:43 PM
This is all about prayer sOoner or later the face of boko haram will face the music because what they are doing is un Islamic........ALLAH YA ISAMMANA


by: kwme from: cape
April 26, 2014 8:45 AM
god will punish all nigeria leaders der are playin politics with nigerian lives . are you telling me dat all northern leader dont know about


by: gregory john duamlong from: lagos
April 07, 2014 1:26 PM
I read the story of this anonymous Nigerian soldier and it only readily brings to my mibd the story that used to make the rounds in my native village in plateau state during the NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR(i was just about 10~12years old). The story was to of an army officer who made money through a scam called 'PAY AND RECORD',a system where allowances where supposed to be paid to the troops on the battle field before confronting the enemy troop. it was told that the soldiers are sent into an ambushment in which case all of them die before collecting their monies

WHAT THEN FOLLOWS IS THAT THEIR MONIES WOULD BE SIGNED FOR AND THE MONIES DIVDRTED BY THOSE WHO SET UP THEIR AMBUSHMENTS. It could be true that the same system has resurfaced again where people's lives are being traded for money or material gain. GOD IS WATCHING BECAUSE THE MAN IN MY VILLAGE WHO HAD SO MUCH WEALTH AND OPULENCE HAD LOST ALMOST EVERY SUCH ILL GOTTEN WEALTH AS AT YEAR 1990, GOD WILL DEFINITELY REQUIRE THE SHED BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT NIGERIANS AND TRUE SOLDIERS. LET THE AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATES THE CLAIMS OF THE SOLDIER WHO GAVE THE INTERVIEW ON VOICE OF AMERICA. GOD BLESS NIGERIA.


by: Anonymous
April 07, 2014 7:11 AM
Do you think that only the islamic sect (boko haram) are responsible for death of innocent citizens what about failure of this administration. That full of corruption in all the sectors of the economy hunger and deprivation,unemployment poverty and diseases but this administration is too weak to handle this situation

In Response

by: Anonymous
April 07, 2014 9:07 AM
1, This country has been ruled for more than 50yrs, mostly by the north? And you are laying all the blame of hunger and deprivation,unemployment poverty and diseases on one administration! Shame!

2. What do you mean "It is not only Boko Haram responsible for death of innocent lives"? So the ones that Boko Haram is responsible for, can be justified and swept under the carpet?

3. Until you muslims rise up and condemn Boko Haram and their killings, you have no right to point us to a different direction.


by: Anon from: USA
April 06, 2014 8:26 PM
Pamela Dockins, I congratulate you for this story!

All of us know that this is the truth, but we are too afraid to say it!
God bless you.

In Response

by: 5nboi from: Lagos
May 16, 2014 3:59 PM
God iz under control we have 2 pray 4 nigerial


by: Idowu from: US
April 06, 2014 8:20 PM
If you don't understand Islam, and the extremely strong sense of Islamic loyalty and religious fanaticism, then you don't understand anything at all!

If you don't understand how people will high-jack a plane and fly into crowded residential areas, shouting "God is Great", then you don't understand anything at all!

If you don't understand one man called 'The General', who recently lost presidential elections in NIgeria, who still has very strong loyalties in The Nigerian Army, who said on record, that he will make Nigeria ungovernable for any Christian who wants to rule the country .... Then you don't know anything at all!

In Response

by: kayode from: Nigeria
April 07, 2014 1:31 AM
@Idowu: It's very pathetic that you could be based in the US and still be an absolute novice. All you allegations are false and absolutely misguided. Not all Muslims are violent, as a matter of fact, most that I know (in the north and south) are not.
The bane of our problem is illiteracy, corruption, bad/weak leadership and misinformation (like you just did).
Buhari never said (and I repeat, Buhari never said) he would make the country ungovernable because everywhere that had been said we've always asked for proof and no one has ever presented one. I'm challenging you to present your facts or else just shut up.
By the way, I just want you to know that I'm a Yoruba and a Christian. So whatever you want to insinuate would have no ground.
I'm ready for further discussions to present you with undeniable proofs about GEJ's government complicity with Boko Haram.
Finally, this report by VOA holds true because we are on ground in Nigeria and exchange information across the country. Most things are not reported as they are/were but as the government wanted them reported.
Have a good day.

In Response

by: emmy
April 07, 2014 1:03 AM
I can assure you that your believe in your own lies, hatred in Islam, hatred of Muslim ummah, baseless thinking, sentimentality, etc will continue to cause division in Nigeria because their millions of your likes. And this is what God has already destined for this country, Nigeria.


by: Sani Imam from: Abuja
April 06, 2014 6:35 PM
This is not true... Except the Soldiers are Muslim people who are favorable to Boko Haram Ideals. The southerners can never do this.

In Response

by: Anonymous
April 07, 2014 4:02 AM
Anger of Allah shall continue b wth u.


by: Truenigerian from: NIGER
April 06, 2014 6:19 PM
Nigeria Army, the once best infantry unit in the world, now caught in the web of corruption and outright distrust. How many soldiers have died in the fight against this insurgents leaving behind their lovely families? How many more? Why must we allow our integrity to be compromised by some morbid politics? A BIG crack now exists on the wall. Every criminal will perpetrate a wicked act and blame it on Nigerian Army. Its either the abuse of military power or self abuse by the military. For this country to return to sustainable peace and development, our respected and intelligent Generals, serving or retired must wake up and salvage the battered image of this glorious INstitution and ensure standard practice of professionalism and responsible ethics. Our Government must repent from impunity, injustice. self serving and embrace true patriotism. The followership must not give up on our govenment and the Nigeria entity. Lets join hands together and fight deceit at all levels. GOD BLESS NIGERIA.

In Response

by: Anonymous
April 07, 2014 9:21 AM
You have said the plain truth. just pray someone is reading this and will do what is necessary to put us on right track. God bless you


by: Anonymous
April 06, 2014 6:17 PM
Really is working together we are eyewetness n we have evidence civilian jtf comander since suspected


by: Bello Bichi from: Colorado Springs CO 80918
April 06, 2014 2:48 PM
When I listened to that exclusive interview I couldn’t believe what the Nigerian soldier stated, but later I begin to tell myself this could be true because when I recalled the military withdrawal from a unit about 1.2 miles from Buni Yadi federal government college few hours before insurgents attacked the school in which 29 students were killed instantly and many died later from injuries they sustained the interview begin to make some sense. When I correlate that exclusive interview with that military withdrawal near Buni Yadi federal government college I begin to see some truth in that interview. And the military is yet to give Nigerian acceptable reason(s) for that military withdrawal, it is really confusing me because why should military do such.

In Response

by: silver from: kano
April 06, 2014 8:22 PM
well we shud blame our selves to what ever happens. 19 out of 36 state are north and 70 % of nigerias population is north. i beleive this r enough a weapon in what ever way

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Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

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