The Nigerian Army Defence Headquarters, Thursday, refuted a publication by Wall Street Journal that hundreds of soldiers killed by Boko Haram insurgency were secretly buried in a military barracks in Borno State.
The Army said this was a lie, rather all military casualties and fallen heroes were honoured with gun salutes, solemn prayers, among others.
The military denied the allegation in a release by the acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, on Thursday, saying that soldiers who paid the supreme price were given their “last respects in a befitting military funeral ceremony of international standard.”
Nwachukwu noted that the Maimalari cemetery, described in the publication, was not secret but the military officially-designated cemetery for soldiers in the North-East theatre, with a “cenotaph erected in honour of our fallen heroes.”
Nwachukwu said: “The Defence Headquarters has noted with dismay an article purporting that the Nigerian military maintains secret graveyards in the North-East theatre of operation. The armed forces of Nigeria have a rich and solemn tradition for the interment of our fallen heroes. Therefore, it must be unambiguously clarified that the Armed Forces do not indulge in secret burials, as it is sacrilegious and a profanity to the extant ethos and traditions of the Nigerian military.
“In tandem with the traditions of the Armed Forces, fallen heroes are duly honoured and paid the last respects in befitting military funerals of international standard, featuring funeral parade, grave site oration, solemn prayers for the repose of departed souls by Islamic and Christian clerics, as well as gun salutes, aside from other military funeral rites.
“The cemetery described in the publication, which is situated in Maimalari military cantonment is an officially designated military cemetery for the Armed Forces of Nigeria in the North-East theatre, with a cenotaph erected in honour of our fallen heroes. The official cemetery has played host to several national and international dignitaries, where wreaths were laid in honour of the fallen heroes. It is therefore a far cry from the sacrilegious impression being painted by the Wall Street Journal.”
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute a judicial commission of inquiry headed by a non-partisan and reputable jurist, to unravel the authenticity of the report.
Atiku, in a statement, said if the report was true, he received it with a sense of heartbreak and shock.
According to him, it is heart-breaking for the families and friends of those soldiers who, if the report was true, had lost their loved ones, without being allowed to bury them or even to have any sense of closure as regards their fate.
He said: “I shudder to think that the cover-up of such an event of epic proportions can be true. The men and women of our armed forces are our first, second and last defence against our domestic and foreign enemies and should be treated with love, respect, dignity and appreciation for the invaluable service they render to Nigeria.”
He added: “To ensure that we get to the bottom of this matter, I urge that a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by a non-partisan and reputable jurist, be inaugurated to investigate the findings of the Wall Street Journal.”