Military wives block Boko Haram deployment
Maiduguri - Military wives in the restive Nigerian city of Maiduguri have taken to the streets this week, burning tyres to prevent their husbands being sent to fight Boko Haram.
About 300 women and 500 children have for two days gathered at the gates of a military base in the Borno state capital, claiming that their spouses were ill-equipped to take on the Islamist militants.
Boko Haram has been waging a brutal insurgency since 2009 which has left thousands of people dead, despite a state of emergency imposed in three northeast states since May 2013 and a troop surge.
The soldiers stationed in Maiduguri were due to retake the town of Gwoza, which Boko Haram overran last week after killing dozens and sending hundreds more fleeing.
"No weapons for our husbands, no trip to Gwoza or any volatile place. We are tired of burying our loved ones," Thabita John, one of the protesting wives, said on Monday.
She added that the soldiers were "ill-equipped to fight the dreaded Boko Haram".
Another soldier's wife, Rahina Ali, added: "Our husbands are always given inferior weapons while the Boko Haram have superior weapons."
The military wives staged a similar protest on Saturday.
Some survivors of the attack on Gwoza managed to make it to Maiduguri, around 135km away, but hundreds more were trapped on a nearby mountain and short on food.
Government spokesperson Mike Omeri dismissed the protest on Tuesday, saying troops were adequately equipped.
"The army officers' wives are not professionals to know the capacity of guns and weapons that they are carrying," Omeri told reporters in the capital, Abuja.
President Goodluck Jonathan's declaration of a state of emergency in Borno and neighbouring Yobe and Adamawa initially saw Boko Haram pushed out of urban centres.
But the thousands of extra troops, vehicles and aircraft have largely failed to stop militant attacks in more remote, rural areas. This year, attacks have occurred on an almost daily basis.
Locals claim that some parts of the northeast are effectively no-go areas for the military, with Boko Haram apparently better equipped than the soldiers sent to fight them.
Survivors of attacks frequently recount how the militants used semi-automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and even armoured personnel carriers.
One soldier who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the troops in the barracks in Maiduguri relied on run-down equipment.
"Our wives are speaking our minds... we are grossly under-equipped," the soldier said. "Our guns are weak and armoured carriers not serviceable."