The military on Monday said it is worried about the trend of some locals in the northeast declining to provide useful information to security agencies.
At least 43 farmers were killed in a deadly assault in Zabarmari, Borno on Saturday by suspected Boko Haram terrorists.
The United Nations has said the death toll is as high as 110.
The attack was one of the latest in a series of violent events being reported across the northeast.
But military spokesman, Major-General John Enenche, while appearing on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, said some local residents reduce the military’s effectiveness to combat the insecurity scourge in the region by not providing relevant information.
“That has been our worry,” he said. “It’s a concern to us. You need a guide, you need information. Will they tell us? That’s a question that we have to ask. Yes, sometimes. And most times, no. And that was one of the issues we have been ensuring to overcome, with civil-military cooperation activities, reaching out to them, even sending people by proxy to talk to them.
“Those are the things that have been one of the banes of the final success in the whole of this operation.
“Our patrols will pass through a route, in a village. By the time you are going, some people are looking at you. When you are coming back, the next thing is that you meet an IED planted on the road. And people saw them, they won’t tell you. So that’s the area I think we are all working together as stakeholders.
“And it is not possible to force information out of people. It’s not possible, just like they say you force a horse to the river, but not to drink water. So all we are trying to do is to build up their confidence in the system and encourage them that look, this is not good for you. Now they do not expect that this will happen, even those ones that they deceived, that they are preaching to them.”
43 Bodies Counted, Yet
Responding to the United Nation’s report on Sunday that 110 people had been killed in the Zabarmari attack, Enenche said the military’s casualty count still stood at 43.
“I have to respond, it is coming from the United Nations,” he said. “This is a source that identified itself that 110 persons specifically were killed.”
According to him, military officials accompanied Governor Babagana Zulum to the site of the killings where the 43 bodies were counted.
But some persons had earlier fled the scene, as they tried to escape the onslaught.
The spokesman added that the military is still searching for casualties.
“Probably we may count up to the figure he gave in the future,” Enenche said. “But as it is, up till the time I came here, what we have counted with the locals is still 43. And we are hoping that we don’t get beyond that. So that’s the real situation.”
Replacing the Service Chiefs
The Zabarmari attack has intensified calls for the nation’s service chief to be sacked.
The hashtag #SackTheServiceChiefs was one of the top trending topics on the social media site Twitter on Monday morning.
When asked what the Military’s position was on the issue of refreshing the military top hierarchy, Enenche declined to respond.
“You are not being fair to me, asking me that question about change of service chiefs,” he said. “It is beyond me.”