#BBOGMonthlyMonitoringInitiative: BBOG Press Statement
Month 1: 14 January to 13 February 2016
Sunday 14 February 2016
Following the 14 January 2016 meeting between Mr President, and the parents of Chibok girls, the Chibok community, we are continuing our daily “sit out” that holds at 5 pm Monday- Sunday at the Unity Fountain, Abuja and every Sayurday at Falomo roundabout, Lagos at 11 am. The “Sit Out” is our Movement’s flagship advocacy activity.
To amplify our daily advocacy , we have invited you today to the launch of our new Monthly Monitoring Initiative . The #BringBackOurGirls movement shall henceforth hold a special conference on the 14th of every month to present the report of our monthly monitoring of the activities of the Federal Government, the Security and Military in respect of their rescue of OUR #ChibokGirls and other abducted citizens. Our tracking tools will be activated from this month to collate all such verifiable information and to organize, analyze, interrogate and disseminate for purposes of demanding accountability from the Federal Government. We expect our monthly tracking tool to help our advocacy and the general public more coherently follow, observe, substantiate, comment on and interrogate the true status of the rescue effort and the broader counter insurgency war.
Our monthly briefings will cover all the specific advocacy outcomes since the commencement of our Movement and which are founded on our ever-abiding faith and hope that:
1. Our #ChibokGirls and all other abducted citizens of Nigeria can be rescued by our Federal Government and the military through the timely execution of an effective, sustained, targeted and result-focused rescue strategy and operation.
2. That all internally displaced citizens of Nigeria including those who are refugees in other lands and other victims of the terrorist activities in the North East must be rehabilitated, reintegrated and resettled into their communities and secured habitation with restored livelihood by our Federal , State, Local Governments in partnership with civil society and the private sector.
3. That our country can conclusively win this insurgency war against the terrorists who are our common enemies and restore the territorial integrity and peace of Nigeria, especially the North East.
4. That our Federal Government, security and military teams will act and communicate transparently to nurture healthy partnerships and collaborations with citizens and communities as they prosecute the counter-insurgency war.
B. Matters Arising from the 14 January 2016 Engagement with Mr President
1. At that meeting, the president in reassuring the parents of our ChibokGirls and our movement, restated his personal and the administration’s prioritization of the agenda for the rescue and safe recovery of our 219 Chibok girls. In his words “He sleeps and wakes up thinking of the rescue of the girls”. However, our Movement was grossly disappointed on the fact of Mr. President’s candid statement that the Federal Government still lacks according to the President, “credible intelligence on their whereabouts”.
Our Movement offered suggestions of publicly available information on at least three sources that could be looked upon in the Federal Government’s quest to gather credible intelligence (please find our January 14 , 2016 statement on the engagement with the President #BBOGReengagesPMB http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/bringbackourgirls-post-re-engagement-statement-with-president-buhari/).
2. There were three specific action points resulting from our meeting with the Federal Government:
A. The National Security Adviser, NSA’s made a strong commitment to institutionalize the structured feedback mechanism that would keep the parents, community, and our movement updated on progress being made with the Federal Government rescue operation;
B. There would be an unveiling of an initiative related to the rescue of our Chibok girls as approved by the President.
Note: We and the general public have since been informed that the initiative is the launch of a new investigation by the Federal Government into the abduction of our Chibok girls.
C.1. The NSA pledged to work more closely with the parents, Chibok community, and our movement to evolve a model security/military- civilian relationship and collaboration. This would be especially targeted at information-sharing to boost the intelligence-gathering effort of the Federal Government.
C. 2 Our report at this time is that we have no evidence on whether any of the three action points have commenced since after our January 14th meeting. We are therefore unable to make an assessment of implementation of all three actions. We reaffirm our expectations on all three action points to the National Security Adviser. We especially restate the necessity to disclose by publishing the report of the Brigadier General Sambo Presidential Task Force on the Abduction of ChibokGirls. Our request using the Freedom of information Act to demand disclosure stands relevant still as such transparency will help encourage more people with relevant information to approach the Federal Government.
C. 3 It is pertinent to also remind the Federal Government of pending actions on the submissions made by our movement at the July 8, 2015 meeting with Mr. President on which he had committed the administration ‘s action. Among our submissions were the following instruments designed and developed by our movement to support the efforts of government:
* Citizens’ Solution to End Terrorism’
* Verification, Authentication, and Reunification System [for returnees of Boko Haram captivity],
*ABC of Our Demand’,
*Chronicles of False Narratives and Inconsistencies by the Nigerian Government Over the Rescue of the Abducted Chibok Schoolgirls’,
* Proposal for a National Missing Persons Register.
Note: We have since commenced partnership on the design of the Register with the National Human Rights Commission.
D. Announcement of a ChibokGirls Desk by the minister of women affairs and social development who informed that a letter written to the Movement to that effect was available.
Instructively, subsequent attempts by the Movement to collect the said letter were futile as our representative was informed that there was no record of such letter. However, the representative of the Movement was recently informed by the minister of women affairs that she was under instructions ‘from above’ not to have any dealings whatsoever with our movement.
We shall be formally writing to verify this position.
C. Synopsis of Month 1 Under Review in the Media
ISSUE1 According to the military authorities, a ‘Boko Haram kingpin’ named Jarasu Shira, said to be linked to the abduction of our Chibok girls was apprehended by our soldiers.
#BBOG Position: Sadly since that news was widely publicized, there has been no further updates news as to whether the accused has been fully identified and if his arrest is providing any leads toward the rescue of our #ChibokGirls. This attitude of the military in never conclusively providing the public information that it releases is not new. We however are extremely disappointed that the new military leadership is repeating the condemnable habits of their predecessors. For example, the public would recall that the military had announced the arrest of one Babuji Ya’ari on 30 June 2014, who it said was central to the abduction of the #ChibokGirls. Despite our movement’s relentless enquiries on the status of the accused, there has been no further information almost two years after.
We therefore advise that the military must change its troubling pattern of withholding salient facts of any incident or situation that should be publicly disclosed. When factual information is available to the public, it helps to enhance the citizens’ confidence in government’s effort to tackle counterinsurgency.
ISSUE 2. More recently, several hundreds of our citizens were reported by the military to have have been rescued from the terrorists capture .
#BBOG Position: As a movement, we are extremely delighted that more citizens are regaining their freedom. We again reiterate that our advocacy for our #ChibokGirls as a symbol for all other abducted citizens stands determined to keep demanding for the rescue of all our compatriots forcefully held captive in enemy enclave.
While we celebrate their success in rescuing these citizens, we however consider the military’s current practice of never identifying those it secures freedom for, as totally unacceptable and against global practice. For the dignity of our fellow citizens, we demand that the military and NEMA must begin to fully provide the identities of every rescued citizen. For transparency and accountability purposes, we demand from the Federal Government, immediate release of the names of all citizens that have so far been rescued from the captivity of terrorists. We want to know “Where they are from, their verified or verifiable identities, their rehabilitation, reintegration and resettlement plan for these victims for whom freedom should be the beginning of an orderly life.
ISSUE 3. The Nigeria Police Force hoisted its flag at its Mobile Police Training School, Gwoza once taken over by terrorists, as part of handover activities from the military to the civilian authorities in the school and the areas.
#BBOG Position: We are delighted that we have reclaimed our important territory and facility from the enemy. We however wish to remind the police authorities of their missing colleagues who were allegedly abducted when Gwoza and their facility was taken over by terrorists two years ago. The families of those missing police officers are still in touch with our Movement seeking for answers on the status of their relatives. We urge the IGP to immediately take steps to provide progress report on the whereabouts of his officers who were abducted while on active duty and to provide relief to their families.
ISSUE 4. The Department of State Security, DSS announced apprehending an ISIS recruiter along with his recruits. The Nigerian Army also announced arresting 2 of theirs who were aiding the terrorists.
This report is heartening and gives hope. It shows their being proactive. A failure of intelligence as has repeatedly been noted is our weakest link in this fight against terrorism.
ISSUE 5. Further to this, the Army has handed over its officers: 7 generals and 2 colonels to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for investigations over their complicity in diverting funds intended to fight the insurgency. However, the report says if they are found guilty, they would be court marshaled.
We like majority of the public suggest that since the investigation indicting them was done by the EFCC, it should be allowed to also undertake the prosecution of the offenders in conventional courts for their crimes of corruption. However, for all other matters relevant to their military functions, the Army or their relevant forces can take additional necessary actions according to their institutional traditions.
ISSUE 6. An elder statesman and former Nigerian president averred that our Chibok girls will never return, or maybe perhaps in the next 20 or 30 years, we having missed the opportunity to rescue them within 72 hours of their abduction in 2014. That the hope for their return is pointless, and anyone who who promises to rescue them ‘is lying’.
As a movement, we hold the strong view that since neither the Federal Government nor its security/ military team has provided any counter evidence that our ChibokGirls are still alive, we must all continue to work toward their rescue.
Furthermore, Mr President–President Muhammadu Buhari again recently made a statement to the world at his European Parliament speech that he remains committed to rescuing the girls. We choose to keep our hope for the girls rescue alive and call on the President to do more to quickly gather the credible intelligence necessary to effect their safe rescue.
ISSUE 6. Following the Dalori attacks on 30 January, Senator Baba Kaka Garbai, formerly Borno commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, now senator representing Borno Central senatorial district, revealed that Boko Haram terrorists still occupy vast swathes of Nigerian territory. Specifically, according to him, only 3 local government areas: Maiduguri Metropolitan Council, Bayo, and Kwaya Kusar local government areas of the state are completely under the Nigerian state control. Mobar, Abadam, and Kala Balge local government areas are firmly in Boko Haram’s control. Of the remaining 21 local government areas, whereas the state has control of the local government headquarters and other key towns, Boko Haram operate at the outskirts. This statement contradicts the President’s recent update “that Boko Haram has been routed and controls no space of Nigerian territory.”
The Borno State Governor, Dr. Kashim Shettima rebutted the senator’s reports and asked that it be discountenanced even though some residents of Borno insist that the lawmaker is accurate.
#BBOG Position: The Federal Government can easily substantiate its position by assembling a team of independent media and civil society advocates to join the military in a tour of all the reclaimed territories. Such transparent and independent journalism around the conditions in those communities should help establish the real conditions of the communities and help build the confidence of many who fled those territories to begin to return in line with the pronouncements of the Federal Government.
ISSUE 7. Sequel to the Dikwa attacks on 9 February, the vice president issued a statement of comfort and hope to the families of the deceased, the victims and their families, the people and government of Borno (in that order), and Nigerians at large. He gave assurances that the state would deploy its full might to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book; as well as President Buhari’s care, concern and continued commitment to completely annihilate the terrorist and keep every Nigerian safe.
Whereas we noted the gesture of the Vice President, we were sad to recall that such message of condolence was the first in over three months period that several citizens have been killed and maimed in various bomb blasts and shooting incidents in the North East. The silence from the Federal Government that had usually followed such tragedies cannot in any way be justified especially when governments of other countries extend condolences to our citizens. We maintain that in moments of such national tragedies Nigerians should hear from our President. By showing empathy and offering comfort, hope, strength, and assurance, Mr. President helps to unify a nation in grief against our common enemy- the terrorists. Empathy, we insist should be the bedrock of governance and it behoves our President to exemplify such a Value construct for our nation. Going beyond statements , the Federal Government should always mount a high profile delegation that visits victims of such tragedies to demonstrate the humanness of our society
ISSUE 8. Nigerians troops at the frontlines have cried out to the president to look into the issue of their unpaid allowances for months.
#BBOG Position : We condemn in entirety any delays in the payment of salaries and other entitlements of our soldiers in the frontline of battle. We therefore urge Mr. President to direct the military authorities and Ministry of Finance to immediately resolve this extremely embarrassing issue and uproot any demoralizing seeds among the gallant nigerian soldiers fighting to secure our land and people.
ISSUE 9. The authorities of the Nigerian Air force, NAF announced that the location of our Chibok girls has been identified.
#BBOG Position :
We recall with agonizing pain that previously , on the 26th May 2014 Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, the then chief of defense staff, declared to a traumatized public that our girls had been sighted and that the military knew where they were. That was nearly two years ago. While we are eager to receive news of the rescue efforts, we however caution against any attempt at repeating the ignoble media sensationalism by the military of the past leadership.
We therefore urge the Nigerian military to desist from releasing and feeding the public with speculative news. What the parents, community, our movement and the general public seek from our Federal Government and its security/military team are facts and information backed by evidence. If indeed the Air force has located where our #ChibokGirls are being held in captivity , can the Government offer much more than it did in that news?
It is further confusing as the NAF spokesperson sent an email to the media denying that very report spoken by himself on television as a ‘misquotation’ by the media.
ISSUE 10. The military has released 275 suspected Boko Haram members.
#BBOG Position: We hope that utmost diligence was used in this exercise and than they would still be subject to some measure of monitoring to avoid releasing any dangerous persons into communities. We also hope that there is a program for resettlement for those unjustly detained over that period of time of incarceration.
D. TWO KEY CONCERNS
1. We seem not to have learned much from our mistakes of the past. Many of the issues and our positions on them are reminiscent of what we profiled from our first monitoring exercise known then as #BBOGCountdownTo6Weeks. That particular monitoring tool was launched one year ago on the 14th of February 2015. It compels us to declare that we cannot afford to ignore the lessons of the past. Our Federal Government should lead in the learning process so that we can gain the benefit of our experiences of the past two years. To demonstrate this , it is critical that all of us; The Federal Government, state governments, local governments, our political leaders, communities and their leaders, civil society , the entire citizenry and our media would embark on review of how to better play our collaborative roles to achieve the overarching victory over our common enemies.
2. This week in 2015, when Mr. President was running for office and visited Borno for campaigns, it was reported that he had planned to visit Chibok but did not due to logistics reasons. In fact, on 17 February 2015 some sections of the media reported that he actually did go to Chibok. But it was later clarified by his official communications team that he did not.
In the light of the January visit to him by more than a hundred parents of our ChibokGirls and the agony with which they returned to Chibok, we consider it extremely important for Mr. President to pay that pending visit now to Chibok. This is also especially appropriate, considering the recent tragedies when many in that community were killed and wounded in multiple blasts.
The President does in fact need to embark on a comprehensive tour of the North East areas most hit by terrorist activities; especially in Borno (and Yobe). Some areas to be visited may include those communities needing reassurance of the government for their residents to return and resettle into normal life. Such a gesture of visits would help restore confidence to the residents more than a thousand words can.
We also recommend a visit to the South East by Mr. President.
E. Next Steps
1. Within the 11 days, that is precisely on 25 February 2016 we shall take out special time to remember our 59 schoolboys of Federal Government College, FGC Buni Yadi who were murdered by terrorists in their school 2 years ago on 25 February 2014. Their parents, families and colleagues still feel the pain of their loss as fresh as they did 2 years ago. They have not been treated kindly by our government and society.
On that day, their family members, and other sympathisers would be joining us to hold a special sit-out at our usual meeting grounds Unity Fountain Abuja at 4.45 pm which will include a candlelight vigil in honour of our young heroes, and to refocus attention on the tragedy in order to elicit the necessary actions to bring closure to this tragedy.
We call on all to carry out an activity to honour their memory. Kindly use the hashtag #BuniYadi59.
2. Today is exactly 8 weeks to 2 full years since the abduction of our Chibok girls in their school on 14 April 2014. We are expecting them back before then; however, whether they return or not, Friday 8 through 14 April 2016 shall be the Global Week of Action to mark this milestone.
We urge everyone to please mark your calendars, start planning and working towards how best to mark this milestone.
As usual, eagerly look forward to our collective victory, and the end of terrorist oppression; the safe return of our Chibok girls and all other abductees, the return refugees and IDPs back home; and ultimately the return of normality, peace and safety especially to northeast Nigeria. A time when such an ordeal shall never be experienced.
We are very proud to salute our gallant fighting men and women of the Nigerian military, the MNJTF, all the security services, including the volunteer Civilian JTF at the frontlines. We wish them resounding success in the days and weeks ahead.
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls
HADIZA BALA USMAN