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: soldier of. army from: uyo
April 06, 2014 1:35 PM
the nigeria army officers only think for dere self getting money or riches as become dere number one terget dat is y dey use we soldier d way dey like,thinking dat we are slave to dem no but one day will come when we all will stand up and tell dem dat enough is a enough we are soldiers but not slave,dey should stop useing us to make dere money,

by: Johnson from: USA
April 06, 2014 8:00 AM
Firstly, there is no doubt that in the early years of Boko Haram all northern political and religious leaders were in support of it. Reason being that their killings caused a mass exodus of Southern Christians out of the North East. So they were hoping Boko Haram would achieve same through every northern state. A northern religious leader even condemned the killing of Boko Haram's first leader, and asked for an enquiry. Up till his day, no northern leader has openly condemned Boko Haram, just as muslims don't openly condemn Al Queda. Secondly, most northern-Easton locals are sympathetic with Boko Haram's cause, and that is why they never report seeing them doing practice. So there should be no doubt that some in northern military are supporting the group.
In Response

by: Anonymous
April 06, 2014 6:37 PM
You are very correct... Elrufai is one of the supporters

by: Pat from: Nigeria
April 06, 2014 6:59 AM
The godfather of African /Nigerian terrorism is beyond Africa. No African country can produce a world class knife not to think of producing the type of sophisticated weapons used in this terrorist attack. First World nations, search your consciences.For economic gains your ancestors took ours into slavery.for the same motive you are exporting weapons too callous for wild beast in your clime into Africa for human beings.

by: Yusuf A from: India
April 06, 2014 6:40 AM
We have had similar experiences of soldiers coming into civilian locations; cordoning d areas and detonating bombs and framing innocent people of being members of Boko Haram. A brother of mine was beaten and arrested for having facial beards and asked by d security to sign a form indicating he was BHaram member! So many uncountable similar incidences have been happening and people living in northern Nigeria know these are true. We know God will not let the perpetrators of these savagery to have peace. This soldiers confession is just Nemesis catching up with Government

by: Anonymous
April 06, 2014 5:41 AM
It is indeed a shame,people who are ment to protect life and property had sold there belife and faith , currption had eaten into every field of human,politic,education,church insitution even the military and paramilitary . Huuuuuuuuummmmmm wat a nation

by: Anonymous
April 06, 2014 5:23 AM
I am not surprised at all, as it is a known fact that Muslims give preeminence to the Islamic religion more than their nation and fellow humans, as long as they are not Muslim.

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
April 06, 2014 5:04 AM
President Goodluck Jonathan have confirmed two years back that Boko Haram have successfully infiltrated the nation's military police and the three main branches of the government; executive, legislative and judiciary. So normally it does not take an astronomical amount of money to bribe a commander in-chief any where in Africa. The Nigerian Soldier's story should not caught us by surprise.

by: Muhammad Lawal from: Abuja, Nigeria
April 06, 2014 4:07 AM
This is highly unfortunate. I listened to the audio recording earlier and I thought it was nothing more than a mere speculation.

If this is true, then we are in deep trouble.

by: elochris from: fri
April 06, 2014 3:19 AM
This is more than 100% possible since some governor and senator can sponsored bokoharam so is better to separated only xstians army to battle the terrorist
In Response

by: kayode from: lagos
April 07, 2014 1:42 AM
Unfortunately, in Nigeria, there is nothing called Christian army instead we have the Nigerian Army. It's not about religion my dear. It's more of ethnic loyalty above national interest. How do you explain Ateke Tom (or whatever his name is) contesting as the governor of Rivers State after destroying our oil installations for years and is now enjoying our amnesty programme? It doesn't make sense and same applies to every region/zone in the country

by: InThemain from: Canada
April 05, 2014 5:15 PM
VOA should know better.

A basic Boko Haram implant story.

“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.”

What uniforms were the soldiers wearing before the “switch” – maybe the VOA reporter thought they were naked initially?

Any thoughtful person should quickly realize that local commanders don’t change the uniforms of their men for specific operations.

Unit commanders are not tailors or clothing retailers that keep a stash of uniforms of varies colors.
In Response

by: Ekuson Debango
April 06, 2014 5:24 PM
Thank you for the simple common sense observation you made in refuting this fictitious report. No military commander can gain a thing when a soldier dies. Remember what happened in Odi and Zaki -Biam because some law enforcement people were killed. This report is facetious and a bad joke to begin with. If this is the strategy which the 12 Northern governors came up with after their pathetic and shameful meeting at the White House then I suggest they go back to the drawing board.The unnamed soldier( and one wonders why he chooses anonymity in the first place) by his insinuation suggests a collaboration between the army and the terrorists to kill Muslims(mind you that Boko Haram is clearly a Muslim outfit with a virulent hatred for anything Christian and also Western-Western media take note!!!!) and then in the Middle Belt the mainly Christian people allege a collaboration between the same soldiers and the Fualni/Hausa who are mainly Muslim to wipe who out this time around? Does not make sense one smidgen.The fellow who alleges that government is sponsoring this to reduce the voting population makes for a poor comedian in the first place. I hope you don't plan to quit your regular job anytime soon.
In Response

by: will from: canada
April 06, 2014 5:03 AM
just as simple as you said it.
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