John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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A Boost in Military Accountability in Nigeria?

by John Campbell
December 4, 2012

Soldiers stand in front of the Remembrance Arcade during a military ceremony to honour Nigerian war heroes in Lagos 15/01/2011. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters) Soldiers stand in front of the Remembrance Arcade during a military ceremony to honour Nigerian war heroes in Lagos 15/01/2011. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

According to the Nigerian press, the defense headquarters have redeployed the commandant,  Air Vice Marshal I. A. Kure, and corps commander, infantry, Major General M. D. Isa, in the aftermath of the bombing of St. Andrews Protestant Church within the Armed Forces Command and Staff College at Jaji on Sunday, November 25. Estimates of the dead range from eleven to over fifty, in addition to the many wounded.

Reports say that surveillance and security at this important training center were negligent. Jaji is only about twenty-five miles from Kaduna where there have been numerous attacks attributed to Boko Haram. The college is located in a semi-rural area outside a small village. A Nigerian reporter for the Vanguard reported that the facility had more than one hundred entry points, many of them unmanned, and the compound lacks a complete perimeter fence.

The chief of defense staff has appointed a board of inquiry into the bombing. Accordingly, the principle of official accountability is served by the reassignment of the two most senior officers pending the outcome of the inquiry. The press is also reporting that the military are deeply embarrassed by the success of the attack, which has imposed a “veil of secrecy” around the military headquarters and restricting access to personnel. The widow of a victim says the authorities will not tell her when or where her late husband will be buried, and visitors to survivors in hospitals are severely restricted.

I see the reassignment of the top two officers as positive for the principle of official accountability. There remains, however, the possibility that these two officers are being made scapegoats. It is unlikely that the results of the board of inquiry will ever be made public. This is a common fate most such official inquiries.

In a throw-away line at the end of the Daily Trust article, there is a note that arrests of policemen and soldiers have been made in connection with the attack on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad’s (SARS) headquarters in Abuja, which occurred at the same time as the attacks in Jaji. The Daily Trust reports that there is “suspicion” that there was “internal collaboration” in the SARS attack. The newspaper provides no concrete evidence.  But, if that’s true, it is a worrying sign of divisions within the police and the military.

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