The Nigerian Army on Tuesday reacted to a newly-published memo which indicated that the Defence Intelligence Agency put the military on the notice about possible Boko Haram attacks in Borno and Yobe States, some days before insurgents stormed a school and possibly abducted more than 100 girls.
The Army said the memo, published by Sahara Reporters on Tuesday afternoon, was an attempt to bolster a narrative that the military was negligent in its counter-terrorism duties which consequently resulted in the successful attack on Dapchi, Yobe State, by Boko Haram on February 19.
The February 6 memo, signed by Emmanuel Aladeniyi, a brigadier-general, warned of impending attacks, especially suicide bombing, in public places, such as the University of Maiduguri, markets, mosques and parks.
It also said that Boko Haram was plotting an abduction of 17 citizens for suicide missions and a separate mass abduction of citizens for other deadly missions such as the use of Personnel-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (PBIED) or Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) "using especially Golf cars with registration numbers from states of the North."
"It is very crystal clear" that the memo "does not corroborate the argument and narrative Sahara Reporters is attempting to sell to the public," Onyema Nwachukwu, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday afternoon.
"For one, the memo was a general warning about possible Boko Haram activities in Maiduguri and Damaturu, Borno and Yobe capitals, respectively, and did not include any specific or even general reference to Dapchi or facilities within it.
"The content reflects general intelligence alert, to which we cannot conveniently situate the attack on Dapchi, one of the several towns in Yobe State," Mr. Nwachukwu, a colonel, said.
Secondly, Mr. Nwachukwu said, the date on the memo was February 6, 2018, nearly a month after the troops had been moved from Dapchi to Kanama, about 125 kilometres North-east of Dapchi on Nigeria's border with Niger. The troops were moved to Kanama on a reinforcement after Nigerian soldiers came under heavy firepower there.
"As at the time of that redeployment, there was no imminent threat on Dapchi," he said. "Rather, the threat was on Kanama where the insurgents were carrying out attacks along the Nigerian-Nigerien border."
Mr. Nwachukwu's statement reaffirms the details he gave PREMIUM TIMES which included the fact that the Nigerian Army 159 Task Force Battalion was moved from Dapchi to Kanama on January 10, exactly 40 days before the invasion of the girls' school in Dapchi on February 19.
The military has come under public criticism since Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State first raised the allegation on February 24 that the military abruptly withdrew from Dapchi a week before the attack.
But the military rejected the claim first on Sunday night and again yesterday, saying soldiers left Dapchi about six weeks before the attack and had a compelling reason to do so.
Mr. Nwachukwu said the police were placed in charge of security operations in Dapchi, which he said had never been attacked before January 19 and was never under any imminent threat of Boko Haram.
The police have rejected the allegations, saying the military did not "formally hand over the security of the town to them."
The Army insisted that the police should be responsible for communities that have never been attacked before by insurgents, like Dapchi, and communities that were once Boko Haram strongholds but had since been liberated.
"Our role is to defend the territorial integrity of the country. It's the role of the sister security agencies to protect the civilian population whenever we have liberated a community from insurgents," Mr. Nwachukwu told PREMIUM TIMES.
He said the police did nothing to repel the attack despite having a division in Dapchi.
Both the police commissioner in Yobe, Sunmonu Abdulmaliki, and the force spokesperson in Abuja, Jimoh Moshood, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES enquiries seeking comments about when the police first heard of the attack and how they responded.