The Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said about 150 people died in Baga, Borno, during the recent insurgents’ attack on the town, and not 2000 persons as reported.
Olukolade said this at a news briefing on Monday in Abuja. He said since the unfortunate incident a lot of speculations and conjectures had 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 2000 people 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 Jan. 3, 2015.
“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.
Olukolade, however, said that necessary action was being taken to put an end to the activities of the terrorists and restore law and order in the community.
He said to end the activities of the terrorists in the community a lot of covert operations including surveillance activities which recorded series of aerial photographs were ongoing in that vicinity.
“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 claim to be eye witnesses must be an extremely exaggerated estimate.
“Unfortunately, this figure is now being bandied about in a section of the media as if it has been authenticated. It cannot be true.
Olukolade urged the media to be circumspect in adopting casualty figures especially the ones given to them by eye witnesses, whom he said, in most cases were 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.
He said the aim of the misinformation was to further the design of those bent on discrediting the government and the military, adding that all well-meaning people should consider it as a disservice to humanity.
“The tendency to celebrate the occasional setbacks while downplaying the efforts and successes at containing the terrorists is unfair and very unfortunate.
“It is noteworthy that many international bodies are being misled in the interpretation of the situation owing to sensational headlines and stories.
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to reiterate its earlier assurance that the military has not given up on Baga or any part of the country where terrorists are marauding.
“Appropriate plans, men and resources are presently being mobilised to address the situation. We want to reassure Nigerians that no portion of Nigeria’s territory has been or will be conceded to terrorists.