There are no secret cemeteries in the Northeast Operation Theater, said the Defense Headquarters (DHQ).
The DHQ’s clarification followed a request by former vice president Atiku Abubakar for an investigation into the alleged secret burial of over 1,000 soldiers killed by insurgents in the north-east, particularly in the state of Borno.
Atiku was reacting to a US Wall Street Journal report on the alleged secret burial in its latest edition.
The Journal reported that dead soldiers were buried at night in unmarked graves in farmland to hide the huge number of victims registered in the war on terror.
But DHQ rejected the report as false.
A statement released in Abuja by the director of defense information, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, states that such a suggestion could only come from an uninformed position.
Colonel Nwachukwu said that the military had a rich and solemn tradition for the internment of their fallen heroes.
“Therefore, it must be unambiguously clarified that the Armed Forces of Nigeria does not indulge in secret burials, as it is sacrilegious and a profanity to extant ethos and traditions of the Nigerian military.”
The statement added: “In tandem with the traditions of the Armed Forces, fallen heroes are duly honoured and paid the last respect in befitting military funeral of international standard.
“It features funeral parade, gravesite oration, solemn prayers for the repose of departed souls by Islamic and Christian clerics, as well as gun salutes, aside other military funeral rites.”
Col. Nwachukwu explained that the cemetery described in publication, situated in Maimalari Military Cantonmen, was an officially designated military cemetery for the Armed Forces in the Northeast theatre, with a Cenotaph erected in honour of the fallen heroes.
According to him, the official cemetery has played host to several national and international dignitaries, where wreaths are laid in honour of the fallen heroes.
He said: “It is, therefore, a far cry from the sacrilegious impression being painted by the Wall Street Journal.
“The Defence Headquarters, therefore, urges members of the Armed Forces and the public to disregard such a misinformed publication.”
He urged them “to see it as a figment of the imagination of the writer, whose knowledge of military valued ethos and traditions is grossly misplace.”
In a statement he personally signed, Atiku said the report should be investigated with the view to establishing the true state of the federal government’s counter-insurgency war in the Northeast.
Atiku said: “To ensure that we get to the bottom of this matter, I urge that a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by a non-partisan and reputable jurist, be inaugurated to investigate the findings of the Wall Street Journal.
“While this is occurring, I also strongly urge that a panel of inquiry comprising distinguished former military officers be set up to investigate and report to Nigerians the true state of the war on terror and what must be done to ensure Nigeria brings a speedy end to the ongoing insurgency.”
Wondering how such unwholesome practice could take place under a democracy, Atiku regretted that the authorities could cover up such event of epic proportions.
He said: “The men and women of our armed forces are our first, second and last defence against our domestic and foreign enemies and should be treated with love, respect, dignity and appreciation for the invaluable service they render to Nigeria.
“I cannot fathom that in the space of a year, 1000 of these great patriots were killed and buried secretly without their families being told. I hesitate to believe that deceit on such a grand scale is even possible.
“Nigeria must ensure prudent use of finances, so we can redistribute national resources in such a way that ensures that our military and security forces are well armed and well remunerated.
“Even the death of one soldier affects me. But the alleged cover-up of the deaths of 1000 soldiers is a national emergency that should shock all statesmen and leaders of thoughts into action to save Nigeria.”