Olaleye Aluko, Abuja
The Nigerian Army on Friday released the photographs of the graves of Lance Corporal Adah Tamuno named in a Wall Street Journal report and those of other soldiers buried in Maimalari Military Cemetery in Maiduguri, Borno State, in November 2018.
The army insisted that it did not bury any soldiers without the knowledge of their families, adding that Adah and others were buried in the presence of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai.
The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, and Operation Lafiya Dole, Col Ado Isa, who released 26 photographs, said in a statement that the last burial done by the army was on July 18, after “Col E.E. Elemele and five soldiers were killed along Jakana-Benisheik road” in Borno in a Boko Haram ambush a day before.
The Wall Street Journal claimed in its report on Wednesday the corpses of soldiers were buried in unmarked graves at night.
The report quoting soldiers and military officers as its sources claimed the secret graveyard and an official cemetery at Maimalari both “hold the bodies of at least 1,000 soldiers killed since the terror groups began an offensive last summer.”
The report said Mercy, wife of Adah Tamuno, was told that her husband was killed by Boko Haram, and when she demanded to see where he was buried, she was taken to a spot in the cemetery marked with a plastic bottle with her husband’s name written on it.
However, the army released the photographs of the graves of Adah and eight others killed in the November 2018 Metele attack, saying they were buried with a 21-gun salute in the presence of their families.
Isa said, “The Maimalari Military Cemetery is the only recognised place where burials are held in the theatre. The stretch of land where the cemetery is located and beyond belongs to the army and it was not taken from any person or a group of people as claimed.
“Burial procedures in the army are entrenched in the army administrative policies and procedures. The procedures are triggered by first notifying the headquarters and the next of kin of the deceased personnel for coordination. It is a command responsibility and attended by officers and soldiers of the unit within the theatre. The timing for all burials in the theatre has always been before the flags are lowered in the evening.
“The Maimalari cemetery is partitioned into two to accommodate both Christians and Islam faithful. The graves are also partitioned, and grave pegs placed to mark each grave. All the deceased are also honoured with a 21-gun salute in line with the ethics and traditions of the army.”
He added, “The questions are: where, when, why and for what reason would 1,000 bodies be hidden without anyone seeing them or perceiving the smell. The report that one Mercy Tamuno, who demanded to see where her husband was buried, was led to a spot marked with a plastic bottle is unbelievable. Interestingly, 13NA/70/9866, Adah Tamuno, was serving with 119 Task Force Battalion at Metele and died during combat.
“He was officially buried on November 29, 2018, alongside his colleagues. The last burial in the theatre was on July 18 at the Maimalari Military Cemetery in accordance with Islamic rites. The burial was attended by the families of the deceased and other sympathisers.”