In recent weeks, Boko Haram has intensified its campaign of violence in Nigeria. The Islamic jihadist militant movement based in northeast Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Niger, responsible for thousands of deaths in the last several years, attacked Baga, a small town in Borno State, northeast Nigeria.
Amnesty International describes it as the deadliest in Boko Haram's history, with about 2,000 killed:
“The attack on Baga and surrounding towns, looks as if it could be Boko Haram’s deadliest act in a catalogue of increasingly heinous attacks carried out by the group. If reports that the town was largely razed to the ground and that hundreds or even as many as two thousand civilians were killed are true, this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.
However, the Nigerian Defense Headquarters countered that the death toll was exaggerated. Major General Chris Olukolade, spokesman for the military, said in a statement that the Baga deaths did not exceed 150 people:
…As you might be aware, there was another terror attack on the town of Baga in Borno state last week which left a number of people dead. Following that unfortunate attack, a lot of speculations and conjectures have 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. […] 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.
The general also took to fact-checking images circulating on social media, claiming to be of Baga following the attack:
— Gen. Chris Olukolade (@GENOlukolade) January 13, 2015
The news of the Baga massacre, the delayed response by the government and the subsequent contention on the actual number of deaths drew the ire of Nigerian netizens. Chxta thought the number of deaths are inconsequential as long as its human life:
Chxta's position was concurred by Jeremy Weate, a Lagos-based publisher:
Its unfathomable that there has been no communication from the Presidency on the Baga atrocity. A complete and utter lack of humanity — jeremyweate (@jeremyweate) January 12, 2015
Blossom, a blogger, was equally irked with the lack of empathy by the government:
Author, Chika Unigwe, was angry that the authorities were more concerned about the number of deaths rather than protecting her citizens:
Gege was muffled by the late response from the military:
I am sorry but the Baga incident happened about 2 days ago. But DHQ spokesman is only releasing a statement today. It is ridiculous. — Gege (@nigeriasbest) January 11, 2015
Musician elDee lampooned the media aides of the presidency:
Onye Nkuzi flayed President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan:
There's the “reasonable person” concept in law Would a “reasonable leader” behave the way GEJ behaved during Chibok & now Baga? I doubt it
— Onye Nkuzi (@cchukudebelu) January 10, 2015
AyoDee thought the opposition APC (All Progressives Congress) is playing politics with the tragedy:
#Baga is not viewed as a tragedy for many in APC [All Progressives Congress], it's viewed as a political ammo aganist GEJ. Ghoulish to say the least.
— Mr. Aye Dee (@MrAyeDee) January 10, 2015
Babajide dismissed the politics of the ruling the Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition All Progressives Congress, pointing rather to the lives lost:
Tunji Landers captures the sentiments on the horror and numbness of the continuous killings of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram:
#Baga Can't fully emotionally process this ongoing slaughter of our people.The death of thousand & not a blip on our national consciousness!
— Tunji Lardner (@TunjiLardner) January 9, 2015
Boko Haram controls towns and villages in an area the size of Belgium. The town of Baga happens to be the location of the military base used by a multinational force set up to fight them.