BBOG engagement with US Reps
5 August 2015
As earlier conveyed, yesterday 4 August 2015, our Movement had engagements with US Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee and Frederica Wilson during their working visit to Nigeria.
There were 3 of such in all. The first was with select members of our Movement along with 2 parents of our missing girls, and 1 among the 57 who escaped. The second was a short extraordinary sit-out at 1.30pm at our usual venue, Unity Fountain, which featured a media briefing. This was because both were Representatives were scheduled to leave the country that afternoon. The third was another special sit-out at our usual time 4.30pm and venue, with Rep Wilson, who opted to reschedule her flight to attend.
Our Movement expressed profound appreciation to them for their partnership and constancy in the #BringBackOurGirls advocacy in the US and particularly in the US Congress.
We then made the following specific requests summarised thus:
1. Intelligence: For the US to aid our government with intelligence in a) locating our girls, b) fighting terrorism, c) training in boosting our forces’ capacity in intelligence gathering;
2. Leahy Law: We acknowledge human rights abuses involving our military, for which we have been advocates for these be investigated, addressed and forestalled. However, our request is for a middle ground where the spirit of the law is upheld without hindering the ongoing counterinsurgency effort, especially considering that from our president’s proclamations that such abuses will be looked into and cannot continue unaddressed.
They asked for our understanding of the law and how it affects the counterinsurgency effort, and we responded. We had an extensive deliberation on this subject-matter;
3. Forensic investigation: To aid our country with expertise and training in order to ascertain the identity suicide bombers and victims of the bombing, for instance;
4. Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): This is a monumental humanitarian disaster. The official figures high as they are, are understated judging from our hands-on experience working with IDPs. What they need is not getting relief materials (the model aiding with relief materials isn’t sustainable) but, they need to return home to find their feet and to move on;
5. Trade: Drawing from 4. above, northeast Nigeria which has been worst hit by the terrorist insurgency needs its economy back. The US can aid by strengthening trade relations especially as would help boost the economy of that region. Poor, disempowered people can be easy targets for recruitment by extremist groups;
6. Continue being a voice: In the dark days of our advocacy during the outgone administration when we were maligned, abused, physically attacked, called “Boko Haram sympathisers”, “psychological terrorists” by the president, etc for standing for humanity; it was encouraging to see them continually demand #BringBackOurGirls across the shores. This provided assurance that we were on course and not beside ourselves. We look forward to a continued partnership in our unity of purpose to ensure that our girls are never forgotten but always remain top priority;
7. Day 500 commemoration: Drawing from 6. above, Thursday 27 August will be exactly 500 days since the abduction of our Chibok schoolgirls in their school on 14 April 2014. To work towards our usual global coalition to commemorate that landmark day.
In response they reciprocated the appreciation, commending leaders of the Movement, notably Mrs Oby Ezekwesili whom they acknowledged had to be away for her church’s convention where she’ll be ordained as a pastor. They agreed to every request we made, took notes and promised to work on each on their return home. They clarified that the US has been and continues to be a strong ally of Nigeria militarily in terms training, weaponry and other support. That the Leahy Law isn’t a hindrance but a mechanism for ensuring compliance in respecting the sanctity and dignity of human life. They spoke glowingly of our president and expressed optimism judging him from his words and body language. Likewise the service chiefs and leaders of the National Assembly whom they all met. With the assurances they have, they committed to return home to see that their government does even more to help.
In like manner, they relayed about the aid their government deploys through USAID to help with the humanitarian crises in the northeast.
They charged us to stay strong, especially seeing that there has been a new dawn. And to hold our elected officials especially our members of the National Assembly accountable, and to increase the pressure. Also to seek ways of working with the government to help with ideas and solutions by deploying our knowledge base and expertise.