Nigerian general jailed for losing battle to Boko Haram
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian general has been dismissed from the army and jailed for losing a major battle in which Boko Haram Islamic extremists killed hundreds of civilians, the military said Saturday.
Brig. Gen. Enitan Ransome Kuti — a nephew of Afrobeat music legend Fela Ransome-Kuti — was sentenced to six months’ jail for losing weapons to Boko Haram, said army spokesman Col Sani Usman. He was dismissed from the military for “failure to perform military duties.”
A court-martial sitting in secret Thursday found Ransome-Kuti not guilty of cowardice and found he was right to withdraw his men in the face of Boko Haram’s superior numbers and firepower.
Not part of the case was the civilian deaths at the Jan. 2 battle for Baga, which was headquarters for a multinational force. The government said 150 people were killed but witnesses put the number as high as 2,000.
Defense lawyer Femi Falana said the military is discriminating since it has dismissed other courts-martial. Dozens of rank-and-file troops sentenced to death for offenses including running away from Boko Haram have received reprieves in recent months.
“Since the other courts-martial have been dissolved ... it is discriminatory, inequitable and illegal to continue with the trial of Brigadier-General Ransome-Kuti,” Falana said, according to the Premium Times newspaper.
Chadian troops in March regained Baga, a town on Lake Chad about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) northeast of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital in the center of the country.
Nigerian and Chadian troops drove the extremists out of a large swath of northeastern Nigeria where they had declared an Islamic caliphate. But Boko Haram has reverted to hit-and-run raids and suicide bombings in Nigeria and three neighboring countries that have killed hundreds in recent months.
A long-awaited offensive by a multinational army of Nigeria and its neighbors has been delayed without explanation.