The Nigeria Army has been accused of operating several ‘secret grave yards’ according to some troop members in a report by the Wall Street Journal.
“Several of my comrades were buried in unmarked graves at night,” said a soldier from the Maimalari barracks, where more than 1,000 soldiers are based. “They are dying and being deleted from history.”
The Soldier revealed that the secret graveyard at Maimalari isn’t the only one in the northeast.
After dark, the bodies of soldiers are covertly transported from a mortuary that at times gets so crowded the corpses are delivered by truck, the soldier said. The bodies are laid by flashlight into trenches dug by infantrymen or local villagers paid a few dollars per shift.
The sprawling secret graveyard in Maiduguri and an official cemetery at the base, the operational command for the northeastern front in Borno State, now hold the bodies of at least 1,000 soldiers killed since the terror Boko Haram groups began an offensive last year, according to soldiers and military officials—some of whom estimated a far higher death toll.
According to WSJ, last November, Mercy Tamuno was told her husband, Adah, had been killed in an insurgent attack on an outpost in Cross Kauwa, a town about 100 miles north of Maiduguri. When she demanded to see where he was buried, she was taken to the official cemetery at Maimalari, where graves are marked with plywood headstones. There she was led to a spot marked with a plastic bottle with her husband’s name written on it.
Two soldiers from Lance Cpl. Tamuno’s unit said he had been buried days earlier in the secret graveyard. The plastic bottle was prepared to appease his wife, they said.
“We know he was buried in the unmarked grave. There was no funeral,” one said.
As the secret cemetery at the Maimalari barracks grows, the military has expanded the site into neighboring fields. “The farmland has been fenced off so they can bury the forces,” said Sarah James, a 50-year-old farmer whose husband is a retired soldier.
Western military officials say the Nigerian army is stretched so thin that its top brass are no longer talking seriously about defeating the insurgency, merely containing it, said WSJ.
Soldiers are barred from speaking to the media and some unit commanders don’t report deaths to preserve their scant budget allocations, soldiers and diplomats told the U.S media outfit..
Speaking with WSJ, Timothy Olanrewaju, a journalist based in Maiduguri, couldn’t reach his brother, Sgt. Samuel Olanrewaju, for four months, commanders repeatedly assured him that his brother was well, but stationed in a sensitive combat zone.
Mr. Olanrewaju learned of his brother’s fate in early July when he saw an Islamic State video that showed his execution. Several hours later, he was still in shock, slumped on a mattress in his living room, struggling for words. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said. “Why didn’t they tell me the truth?”
The military’s secrecy about casualties is so widespread it is unclear whether Nigeria’s political leaders are aware of the state of the conflict, the media house said.