#BBOGCountdownToMay29: Weeks 4; 10 – 16 May 2015
Weeks 4: 10 – 16 May 2015
17 May 2015
Today is Day 398 since the abduction of our #ChibokGirls from their dormitory in Government Secondary School (GSS), Chibok on 14 April 2014. It is also Week 4 of our #BBOGCountdownToMay29, our weekly monitoring mechanism of the National Security Adviser’s bold assertion on 14 April 2015, that our abducted Chibok schoolgirls would be rescued and returned home safely before the May 29 handover date to the incoming government.
A. The Key Issue: WHERE ARE OUR #CHIBOKGIRLS?
It would be recalled that President Jonathan had expressed hope and optimism on 11 February, earlier this year that following collaboration with our neighbouring countries in a 6-week counterinsurgency operation, our girls will be rescued. With this pronouncement, anxiety and expectations were at an all time high. Other such commitments were expressed within the ensuing 6 weeks of the renewed counterinsurgency effort, all of which unfortunately did not result in rescuing our girls. When therefore, the Federal Government announced through the words of the NSA on April 14, that the military would storm Sambisa Forest and rescue our #ChibokGirls before May 29; their parents’, families’, communities’, and our expectations; as well as that of Nigerians and indeed the world at large rose to stratospheric levels.
It is for this reason that we find the silence by the NSA, who for 4 weeks has neglected, failed or refused to give any update on the operations to bring back our girls disturbing, and rather disconcerting. We deem this silence as not only a lack of accountability, but an expression of disdain, and impunity. What hope are the distraught parents of our missing girls expected to get from this disturbing silence, especially seeing that May 29 is less than 2 weeks away?
So, again we are forced to ask:
– Where exactly does the government know our chibok girls are and when shall they be rescued?
– What is happening to military and human intelligence that our government ought to have on our girls?
– When precisely are we getting a comprehensive briefing on the effort to bring back our girls which the NSA had announced on 14 April?
– Where are our girls?!
We have stated in the past that our #ChibokGirls are the symbol of the failure that resulted in the abduction of several of our citizens and the occupation of our territory by a band of insurgents. It is only with their rescue and safe return that we can be said to have completed the cycle of success so far achieved in the counterinsurgency effort.
We must emphasise that governance must be driven by empathy and a deep sense of responsibility. It is time to end the misery of their parents who have hoped against hope in the many words of assurance of our President and the military. It is time to finally #BringBackOurGirls.
Below are our other observations and concerns of this past week under review:
B. MATTERS ARISING
1. Foiled terrorists attempt on Maiduguri:
In the cause of the week, the terrorists attempted to attack Maiduguri, but were successfully repelled by our military. In the process, we had fatalities: 70 civilians, 3 soldiers and 6 Civilian JTF vigilantes. The fatalities especially by our troops and the Civilian JTF occurred when these in an attempt to help 2 women – who unbeknownst to them were suicide bombers – and the women detonated the bombs.
Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and colleagues of all the deceased. We also commend our forces for acting promptly to foil this attempt by our enemies, and for taking proactive measures in not only keeping citizens secure, but making them feel secure, and sure that they are well-taken care of.
We commend our military for promptly releasing the exact number of casualties, instead of the the usual taciturnity or generalisations. The lives we lose everyday are precious and not just mere figures. And especially for our troops at the frontlines, this is the least we can do for them.
Seeing that the terrorists are under immense pressure, and have been chased out of the metroples, we suspect that they may be activating their cells for attacks to create the false impression that they hold sway. It is in light of this that we counsel a renewed effort at using all the intelligence systems we have in place to deactivate these.
2. Retaking of Marte and the killing of more citizens:
Unfortunately, Marte, a recovered territory has again been take over by the terrorists. In a similar vein a another suicide bombing by a 7-year-old girl murdered 7 citizens in Damaturu. We strongly deplore the use of children, girls — or anyone for that matter — as suicide bombers.
This again calls to question the concerns we have raised again and again, on whether the terrorists were routed and decimated once and for all; or if they were merely chased out of the towns in order to regroup and return? We are concerned if we are to deem this as a terrorists resurgence?
3. Worsening humanitarian conditions in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps/settlements and for returnees:
We have once and again expressed concern about the dearth of basic amenities like food, water and shelter at IDP camps and settlements. This highlights the gap in the management of the welfare of citizens who have been forced out of their homes and communities in the northeast by insurgents. Very sadly, those who could no more bear such degrading and dehumanising conditions of living, and found they way back home are facing starvation and worse conditions than they were faced with at the IDP camps and settlements. Their homes, properties, farms, etc have been destroyed and looted. They are also faced with unreported killings, as the terrorists are still lurking in pockets here and there especially in the rural areas and hinterlands. We reiterate that whereas the responsibility of rescuing citizens from terror lies mainly with the Federal Government, the state and local governments have a lot to do in protecting the dignity of vulnerable citizens and victims of terror, and providing succour.
We are compelled to ask, what are the State Emergency Management Agencies doing? The state governments need to sit up.
We also wonder as we always have, what the Victims’ Support Fund is meant for and when it is intended for use?
4. Update on returned citizens from Sambisa Forest:
We are still waiting to know the identities of our citizens rescued from Sambisa Forest, whom we were told weeks ago were undergoing “screening and profiling”.
We also demand to know the exact number of our citizens rescued to date. Exact, precise numbers, not the usual “over 1 000” we are repeatedly told. We find it degrading referring to precious human lives, citizens as if they were mere numerical figures.
It bears repeating that the daily sacrificial efforts of our gallant men and women of the military at the frontlines, and the Civilian JTF are very much appreciated. And we urge them to stay strong and sustain this momentum.
On another sad and somber note, we regret to announce the passing on of family member of our Movement yesterday, Saturday 16 May; Senator Khalifa Ahmad Zanna representing Borno Central in the senate. The senator was passionate about the cause of our #ChibokGirls both as innocent schoolgirls abducted by terrorists, and as the symbol of what the distraught people of the northeast are facing on a daily basis: the ravages of terrorists and the effects of terrorism — a result of the failure of the system. He was also passionate about the cause of IDPs. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and other colleagues. For us as a Movement, saddened as we are, this sad event gives us more impetus to keep demanding, so that the cause for which this family member lived for will not be in vain.
Finally, may we remind that today is 17 May 2015; 12 days to May 29 the handover date. We also remind the outgoing president of his promise to the Chibok parents on 22 July 2014 to bring back our girls. For us, having back our girls before the May 29 would be the best parting gift for Nigerians and citizens around the world.
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls
Hadiza Bala Usman