The Defence Headquarters, yesterday, gave the death toll of Boko Haram attack on the headquarters of the multi-national Joint Task Force in Baga, Borno State, saying not more than 150 persons were killed. It therefore described the 2,000 deaths reported across several media, especially online media, as false.
“As you might be aware, there was another terror attack on the town of Baga in Borno State last week which left a number of people dead,” Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said at a briefing in Abuja.
“Following that unfortunate attack, a lot of speculations and conjectures have been peddled by a section of the press particularly the on-line media regarding the casualty rate.
“Some claimed that over a thousand people were killed while others wrote with certainty that 2,000 lost their lives in that singular attack.
“Without any doubt, terrible atrocities have been committed against innocent Nigerians in Baga by the rampaging terrorists who attacked and have been operating in the town since January 3, 2015.
“Necessary actions are being taken to put an end to the activities of the terrorists and restore law and order to the community.
“To this end, a lot of covert operations including surveillance activities which recorded series of aerial photographs are ongoing in that vicinity. It is, however, necessary to inform Nigerians in the interim that the exercise so far has not corroborated the report on the casualty rate which was put at 2,000.
“From all available evidences, the number of people who lost their lives during that attack has so far not exceeded about 150 in the interim. This figure includes many of the terrorists who were bearing arms and got killed in the course of their attack and battle with troops.
“It should be noted that Baga and the neighbouring towns have been under series of attacks and harassment by terrorists. In the course of this, many residents have left, leaving the population in the town almost seriously depleted. Many were also able to escape while the terrorists’ battle with troops lasted.
“The figure given by sources who claimed to be eye-witnesses must be an extremely exaggerated estimate. Unfortunately, this figure is now being bandied in a section of the media as if it has been authenticated. It cannot be true.
“It is pertinent to once again urge the media to be circumspect in adopting casualty figures, especially the ones given to them by the so-called eye-witnesses, who in most cases, are influenced by their own perspectives.
“In any case, this is no time to debate about casualty figures or number of deaths as the life of any Nigerian is important.
“Much as the intention which could be with the aim of drawing attention to the atrocities being committed by terrorists group in Nigeria is most welcome, the need for factual presentation of the situation is equally vital.
“In case the aim of this misinformation is to further the design of those bent on discrediting the government and the military, all well-meaning people should consider it as a disservice to humanity,” Olukolade said.