Indications have emerged that the Nigerian military may not have provided the accurate facts on what actually transpired in the Lake Chad Basin when Boko Haram terrorists were said to have attacked NNPC staff and their support team engaged in oil exploration work.
The military had on Wednesday, following Tuesday’s attack, claimed through its Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, that 10 NNPC workers were abducted but that they had all been rescued. It also stated that nine officers and a civilian lost their lives.
But these claims were dismissed by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, Abubakar Njodi, who confirmed that staff of the university who were providing technical support to the NNPC in the Lake Chad Basin had been involved in the incident.
He stated that contrary to earlier claims by the Nigeria Army that all workers involved in the incident had been rescued, four staff of the university including two geologists, two technologists and a driver, were killed, while four others were still missing. The missing staff include two lecturers, one technologist, and a driver.
A further evidence that the military’s information was questionable came on Friday when Boko Haram released a video of abductees it claims were members of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Lake Chad Basin team, including some academics from the University of Maiduguri, who were reportedly abducted on Tuesday.
In the video sent to Channels TV, but which the station said “has not been independently verified”, three men who said they were in the employ of the University of Maiduguri, appealed to the government for help.
Of the abducted men in the video, two of the men said they were lecturers in the Geology Department of the University and said their names were Yusuf Ibrahim and Dr. Solomon N. Yusuf.
The third man identified himself as Haruna. He said he was a driver with the university.
The men in the video also said they were part of the oil exploration team ambushed by Boko Haram on Tuesday (July 25), adding that the video was recorded today, July 28, 2017.
It will be recalled that the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, while confirming the incident, had announced the suspension of further exploration effort in the region until security clearance was provided.
Some have argued that the government’s stubborn insistence on advancing oil exploration efforts in the Boko Haram-ravaged Lake Chad Basin despite over two decades of fruitless search, may have prevented it from doing a proper security risk assessment.
The minister had also, in reacting to the claims of rescue of the workers by the military, said he was unaware as he had not be officially briefed. This was interpreted by some as a hint that the army’s story might not have been accurate.
This brazen attack happened barely a week after Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, had issued a 40-day ultimatum to his men to capture the long-elusive Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, an order which many saw as the latest proof of the military’s struggles with the truth, having repeatedly told the public that it had killed the notorious terrorist.
The attack also came at a time when there has been an upsurge of suicide bombings and targeted attacks by the sect, with high casualties. Only recently, in the space of one week alone, a total of about 6 successive suicide attacks were reported in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
Worried by the rise in attacks climaxed by the kidnapping of the NNPC workers, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo had, following an emergency security meeting with the service chiefs on Friday, ordered them to relocate to Borno State, which is at the heart of the devastating insurgency.
Many believe that the unfolding developments on the NNPC workers which clearly disprove the military’s claims, will only contribute to worsening its image in information management and transparency.
Questions are already being asked as to why those charged with the protection of lives will, having failed to guarantee safety, compound the tragedy of the victims and their families by misrepresenting the facts.
Some are challenging the Nigerian government to improve its monitoring and reform of the military which has been portrayed in bad light internationally by successive reports of Amnesty International, over abuse of human rights, violation of the rules of engagement, and perpetuation of a culture of unhealthy secrecy anchored on a lack of transparency and accountability.