Missing Soldiers: Nigerian Army Under Fire For Blocking Activist Kayode @Ogundamisi On Twitter


by Samuel Ogundipe,

Nigerians on Twitter are slamming an “unprofessional conduct” of the Nigerian Army after the institution blocked an outspoken citizen for raising awareness about the plight of soldiers still locked in a fierce battle with Boko Haram across the Northeast.

Kayode Ogundamisi, a rights campaigner and social commentator, attracted many to his timeline on Monday afternoon after posting heart-rending images of the undignified condition under which Nigerian soldiers were being fed.

His updates apparently rattled the Nigerian Army, prompting the handlers of its Twitter account to block Mr. Ogundamisi.

The measure was swiftly criticised by commentators, who said Mr. Ogundamisi deserved appreciation rather than scorn.

President Buhari and army chief Tukur Buratai
President Buhari and army chief Tukur Buratai

“This is the worst response I had ever come across,” a Twitter user said. “So citizens aren’t supposed to question the military again?”

Mr. Ogundamisi’s tweets came the same week PREMIUM TIMES’ report of the aftermath of a major attack by the Boko Haram on troops on October 17.

The report detailed how scores of Nigerian troops stationed at Gashigar, Borno State, were forced to abandon their position by dreaded Boko Haram terrorists approaching in a high number.

Several of the fleeing soldiers were later feared dead from drowning in the River Yobe.

Twenty-two were rescued by Nigerien soldiers and dispatched to a hospital in Diffa, southern Niger, PREMIUM TIMES gathered.

This newspaper also mentioned how the greed of a few senior officers had seen soldiers’ upkeep being arbitrarily held back or slashed.

Although the Army has not issued any updates about the missing 83 soldiers or those recuperating in Niger, some of the soldiers told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday that their allowances were hurriedly paid over the weekend following the reports.

After his efforts to get the Army to provide information about the missing soldiers failed during the weekend, Mr. Ogundamisi commenced his independent findings and brought the results to social media to corroborate PREMIUM TIMES reports.

In a series of 30 posts, he used oral accounts he obtained from the troops to narrate the disturbing images they shared with him.

The details showed how the combatants were living on the edge with poorly nourished —and sometimes cold— foods, a situation the military leadership would rather hush up, Mr. Ogundamisi said.

“A lot is going on and a lot of covering up,” Mr. Ogundamisi told PREMIUM TIMES Monday afternoon.

For the most part of the afternoon, Nigerians were still lampooning the Army, which came after Mr. Ogundamisi posted a composite image of how Nigerian Army handle blocked him shortly after his tweets.Kayode Ogundamisi

The Buhari administration’s critics said the development lends credence to their suspicion that government was actively suppressing information from coming out of the Northeast.

In December 2015, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, suggested what appeared a media blackout of Boko Haram attacks, citing national interests.

“Acting in the national interest means not playing up reports of cowardly Boko Haram attacks on soft targets,” Mr. Mohammed said during a press briefing on Christmas Eve.

PREMIUM TIMES’ checks revealed that the Nigerian Army is not the only public institution that blocks people on Twitter over for disagreeable comments.

Official handles such as those of the president (@NGRPresident) and official State House communication department (@DigiCommsNG) are known to have blocked dozens of critics.

Nigerian senators, especially Ben Murray-Bruce and Dino Melaye, have also been criticised for blocking citizens at the slightest provocation.

But Mr. Ogundamisi said the “culture of intolerance” could be about the aides handling such accounts than the actual personalities who own them.

“I think the intolerance is more about the handlers of the social media accounts,” Mr. Ogundamisi said.