AFRICANGLOBE – More than eight months after Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from Nigeria’s northeastern town of Chibok, the army has sentenced 16 soldiers to two years each in jail for “negligence and cowardice” in relation to the abduction.
“Yesterday night, 16 soldiers were found guilty of cowardice and other offences following the abduction of the Chibok girls,” a source at Nigeria’s defense headquarters said on Wednesday.
“Those convicted included a lieutenant-colonel, a captain and a second lieutenant who had been standing trial before a General Military Court Martial,” he said.
On April 14, Boko Haram terrorists abducted 276 girls from their school dormitories in northeastern Borno State’s town of Chibok, according to official accounts.
Boko Haram kingpin Abubakar Shekau later claimed responsibility for the abductions, offering to trade the kidnapped girls for detained terrorists held by the Nigerian authorities.
At least 57 of the girls subsequently managed to escape their captors. The fate of the rest, however, remains unknown.
Government efforts to rescue the girls, including reported backdoor negotiations with Boko Haram, have failed to produce results, further fuelling popular anger.
Nigerian authorities have yet to issue a statement confirming the jail sentences, which came only days after 54 soldiers were sentenced to death by firing squad for similar lapses in counterinsurgency operations.
Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Olajide Laleye stressed that the Nigerian army would not condone indiscipline.
“The Nigerian army… is fully committed to the restoration of discipline and good conduct, as well as military professionalism,” he said.
“All acts inimical to the growth of the Nigerian army will be procedurally and expeditiously carried out in line with extant laws and regulations,” he said.
Asked if this could be taken as confirmation of Tuesday’s jail sentences, he asserted: “This is not confirmation, as the official document is not with me, but [rather] a general statement on the Nigerian army intent.”
For the last five years, Nigeria has battled a fierce Boko Haram campaign of terror that has ravaged the country’s volatile northeastern region.
Outlawed in Nigeria, Turkey and the United States, Boko Haram first emerged in the early 2000s preaching against government misrule and police corruption.
In 2009, the group became violent following the death of its leader while in police custody.