Some 15 senior Nigerian military officers, including 10 generals, are under arrest for allegedly aiding and abetting Boko Haram extremists who have spread chaos and fear in northern Nigeria, and in mid-April kidnapped nearly 300 school girls as they took their final exams.
The officers, charged with disloyalty, have reportedly given information to Boko Haram on Army troop movements that has resulted in ambushes. They are also accused of allowing troops under their command to fight with Boko Haram and then melt back into Army ranks, and some have reportedly supplied arms to the shadowy insurgency.
The Boko Haram drama continues to preoccupy Nigeria, where more than 520 civilians have been killed since the girls were abducted in Chibok in the north. Last Sunday, nine worshipers in a Christian church were slain by Boko Haram, though the group has killed far more Muslims than Christians.
Meanwhile, today, following outrage by parents and civic groups, a ban on public protests about the plight of the girls was reversed. Police chief Joseph Mbu first said the protests over the slow pace and general confusion in finding and returning of the girls were a security risk. (The head of the Nigerian military on May 18 said the Army knew where the girls were being kept – though by May 20 the Goodluck administration’s spokesman cast doubt on that claim).
News of the arrested generals ran in a Nigerian paper called Leadership and was given currency by an Associated Press story today.
For more than a year, rumors have swirled that the self-styled “Islamic” insurgents have been receiving aid from politicians and senior military officials in the northeast, which has a different political and social dynamic than the south, where President Goodluck Jonathan hails from.
Boko Haram has vowed to “destabilize” the Jonathan administration, and has escalated those efforts in the past year after Jonathan declared a military emergency in three northern states where Boko Haram operates.
The AP tried to confirm the arrests with Nigerian officials:
Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. Last week, he denied that senior military officers were being investigated for helping Boko Haram and sabotaging a year-old offensive to curb the 5-year-old uprising that has killed thousands.
Last week in Abuja, the protesters, who helped bring visibility to the Boko Haram insurgency, and who helped inspire the hashtag movement #BringBackOurGirls that US first lady Michelle Obama has endorsed, were roughed up and their placards and tables overturned by masked thugs who the civic groups said were hired by the government. Today, in withdrawing the ban on protests, Nigerian authorities warned those demonstrating to be careful about security.