23 November 2018

Nigeria: Presidency Under Fire for Silence Over Soldiers' Death

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is being criticised for his silence over the killing of several soldiers in a recent attack in Metele, Borno state.

Reports in the country said terrorists on Sunday overran a Nigerian Army battalion, 157 Task Force Battalion, in the village to kill at least 44 troops.

However, an officer among the troops attacked at Metele told Reuters: "The insurgents took us unawares. We lost about 100 soldiers. It is a huge loss."

"They killed some of us who went to evacuate the bodies of the killed soldiers," said the officer who requested anonymity.

The attack is among the highest since Buhari came to power in 2015 and it increase the pressure on him ahead of the election in February 2019, not least because he has claimed victory over the nine-year insurgency.

Although the Senate after four days, on Thursday, shut its legislative activities to honour the fallen soldiers, neither the president nor the Nigerian Army has reacted to the loss.

The silence of the Buhari and the Nigerian Army has drawn widespread condemnation on the social media.

"Buhari's govt was quick to react to Jonathan's book, silent on the soldiers killed by Boko Haram... Fact is: Buhari and his men are more interested in retaining power than protecting Nigerians," tweeted Lere Olayinka, Ayodele Fayose's spokesperson.

A political strategist, Walter Christopher, also called the president a "shame" for his silence.

"Over 100 soldiers killed in just one week and our President and his men are acting as if nothing happened?... may God restore sanity to our land," said Peter Ayodele Fayose, Ekiti state immidiate past governor.

Amaechi Nwokolo, a security analyst at the Roman Institute of Security Studies in Abuja, told AFP: "The whole thing (the insurgency) has been politicised.

While the country awaits the President's reaction to the killing, the presidential candidate of the People's Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, in a video posted on his Twitter handle commiserated with the families of the slain soldiers.

More than 27,000 people have been killed in nine years of fighting while 1.8 million others are still homeless, as aid agencies tackle the humanitarian fall-out from the conflict.

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