Abduction of policewomen: It’s #ChibokGirls all over again
3 July 2017
Almost 2 weeks ago, on 20 June, the media widely reported that a security convoy of vehicles conveying military and police personnel was attacked by the terrorists 30 kilometres from Maiduguri on the Maiduguri-Damboa federal highway. Part of the convoy was said to be civilians and personnel of Nigeria police travelling for the burial rites of a deceased police colleague. In some of the reports, eyewitness accounts relayed that 16 women were abducted by the terrorists from among the burial convoy.
Our movement is worried that 13 days after this reported tragedy, the federal government, the military have maintained an eerie silence on the matter. The ominous silence is made more troubling when 4 days after the attack and alleged abduction of the women from the burial convoy, the Boko Haram terrorists released a video in which they took responsibility and paraded the women they claimed were the police women, victims of that attack.
We also noted that it was 4 days after the unfortunate claim by the terrorists and more than 1 week after the incident that the Nigeria Police Force made its first statement. In said statement, it outrightly denied that any police personnel was abducted, that the women in the released video were not their staff although the statement confirmed that two (2) of their personnel were missing.
For us the #BringBackOurGirls movement there is a painful sense of déjà vu that has compelled us to issue this statement. Assessing how our authorities have handled this latest incident of abduction, it does appear that 3 years on, another #ChibokGirls-like tragedy is happening all over again.
We recount how a little over 3 years ago when our #ChibokGirls were abducted, there was no official response from the federal government and the military for several days. Then came the news from the military that all 129 school girls (the wrong number assumed to have been abducted at that time) had been rescued with only 8 presumed missing. The military was forced by wailing affected families to recant this wrong assertion a few days after when evidence to the contrary proved that 276 school school girls were abducted, 57 escaped on their own with no involvement of the military and 219 had become captives of terrorists.
The similarity of that 3-year old tragic episode seems to be replaying itself in that Nigeria Police statement of Wednesday, 28 June 2017 on the alleged abduction of our policewomen. When the abduction happened in Chibok in 2014, some officials of the federal government did in fact deny that the school girls existed in the first place referring to their abduction as a scam. And yet, from media reports, the policewomen were said to be on a national assignment to bury their deceased colleague when eyewitnesses to their attack saw them taken away in a truck just like it happened to our ChibokGirls on that night of 14 April 2014.
We recall also another unfortunate in which the Nigerian air force denied the brave and heroic 41-year-old Wing Commander Chimda Hedima after he was captured by terrorists and displayed in a video they released in 2014. It did not end well.
This is why we as a movement have always insisted transparency and truth in the manner our government prosecutes and communicates the terrorist war, our triumphs and losses. It is the only way to mobilise the trust, confidence and support of the Nigerian people, especially families and communities directly affected by the multiple tragedies of abductions and deaths.
We are worried that while the Nigeria police is issuing denials, some affected families are reaching out to our movement seeking support to advocate to the federal government to mount a rescue plan for their abducted relatives. This unnecessary confusion makes us wonder what the real facts of this alleged abduction are and how the federal government — especially the Presidency intends to resolve it speedily. This is the least respect that should be accorded the alleged abductees who in this case are those sacrificing daily to secure the rest of us.
We therefore demand immediate reaction of the Presidency and the federal government to the cries of families of the alleged abducted policewomen and other citizens in the burial convoy that was attacked. The federal authorities cannot carry on repeating all the wrong approaches in dealing with victims of terrorism that it should have learned to handle differently over these many years. Therefore, our federal government must immediately provide answers to the whereabouts of the missing policewomen and their civilian counterparts who were part of the burial convoy. It must also instantly convey its effort to rescue any one of the victims of that attack that is accurately established to be in terrorist captivity. Finally, it must institute a feedback platform to engage with all the families of the abducted policewomen and others thereafter.
We also seize this opportunity to remind the Presidency and the military that our 113 #ChibokGirls are still missing, 1176 days after their abduction on 14 April 2014. Since the return of 82 last May, we are anxious that nothing further has been communicated to the parents of those still left in terrorist captivity. We demand haste on the part of our federal government in securing the release or rescue of our missing 113 #ChibokGirls to join their 106 schoolmates that have regained their freedom.
Signed: For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls