GET OUR GIRLS OUT NOW!
Being the Text of a Statement Delivered by the #BringBackOurGirls Movement at a World Press Conference on Day 900 of Our #ChibokGirls’ Abduction
30 September 2016
Today marks 900 days since the abduction of 219 schoolgirls– daughters of our country, Nigeria – from their dormitories at Government Secondary School, Chibok on the night of 14 April 2014. Two hundred and eighteen of them remain in captivity despite our 885 days of demanding their rescue by two successive governments of Nigeria.
A. OUR MOVEMENT’S ANALYSIS AND REACTION TO THE SEPTEMBER 16, 2016 MINISTER OF INFORMATION’S ACCOUNT OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA RESCUE EFFORTS FOR # CHIBOKGIRLS.
Two weeks ago, on 16 September 2016, the Nigerian government speaking through the Minister of Information, gave an update on its efforts to rescue our missing girls, after a long period of silence. That update covering activities between July 2015-December 2015 – was the first time ever that a degree of specificity about efforts to rescue the girls was provided by government since their abduction over twenty nine months ago. The substance of the update was material enough to merit our movement’s deep interrogation of what the federal government presented to the public as “facts” and to weigh their consistency with other statements it had previously made on the fate of our #ChibokGirls.
First, we noted that the detailed account presented by the Minister of Information revealed activities related to rescue effort only up to December 2015. It is thus curious that there was no activity reported for the entire nearly nine months of 2016. So the question is, “What was the Federal Government doing concerning the rescue of ChibokGirls in the last nine months and why was nothing of that period captured in the Minister’s account?”
Second, our analysis also found at least five (5) confirmed or inferred instances of Presidential briefings and approvals for negotiation between officials of the Federal Government and the terrorists. We captured these very significant approvals of the President in the infographics that accompany this statement of our movement. We consider the fact of these Presidential approvals weighty material evidence that call to question the President’s many public statements that “his government does not have credible intelligence on the group holding the girls captive”. Our position is founded especially on the following excerpt from the Minister of Information’s September16, 2016 statement which reads:
“By the third week of July 2015, a contact group was in touch with credible assets who had the reach, and who attested to the fact that some of the Chibok girls were alive. Mr. President was then briefed of these assets and intelligence and he gave his assent for further negotiations on the Chibok girls. Precisely on 17th July, 2015, the DSS opened negotiations process with the group holding the Chibok girls. However, in return for the release of some of these girls, the group also made some demands.”
Based on this very obvious contradiction, who then should parents, Chibok Community, our Movement and the Nigerian and global public that are extremely anxious about the rescue of the 218 young women believe? Should we believe the President who says that government has not established contact with the “credible group holding the girls”? Or should we believe the Minister of Information whose September 16, 2016 account to the public, explicitly stated that the Federal Government has through the Department for State Security, “opened negotiation with the group holding the #ChibokGirls” since July 17, 2015? Who should we believe?
Third, in his Presidential chat of December 27th 2015, the President informed an extremely anxious public that the government had no credible intelligence on the “whereabouts of the girls”. Again on January 14, 2016, the same was repeated in a meeting he had with the parents, Chibok community, and our #BringBackOurGirls movement. If the President’s account is the correct state of affair, then our legitimate question is, “what exactly has the Federal Government been doing if after nearly eighteen months of being in office it has yet to gather the “credible intelligence” on everything related to the captivity of these innocent young women, including who their captors are and their location?”
Related to this, our Movement is curious to know why it appears from recent statements of the President that the Commander -in-Chief is expecting the terrorists to take the lead by showing up and identifying themselves to the Government. How reasonable is such expectation? Should it not be the Government of Nigeria under the leadership of our President that must mobilize both national and global intelligence assets and military capabilities to take all necessary actions that makes it impossible for the terrorists to continue to hold our ChibokGirls hostage?
Fourth, should it be that the Minister’s account is the accurate state of affairs, then it raises grossly troubling questions. The first of our deep concern would be, “how much does our President really know about the activities of his military and security team concerning his government’s rescue plan for the girls ?” This is a critical question that demands honest response because as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, it would be patently problematic if the President is not privy to the array of information necessary for decision making on the fate of 218 young women. Another key point is that if indeed all the efforts in the Minister’s statements were being made by the Government (even if just at the bureaucratic level and without the knowledge of the President), ” Why then did it have to take our movement’s 72-hourly protests to the Villa, in early September, for the administration to finally break its protracted and condemnable silence after nearly one year?
How could a government which pledged regular updates at the first meeting of July 8, 2015 between the President and representative parents of the girls, accompanied by officials of the Chibok Community Association and our Movement; now find it convenient to keep all these interested stakeholders in the dark for such a long period? Why does the government only always react rather than anticipate and proactively respond to the demands of the parents and their community? Why did the Government abandon the parents and their community to their anguish by failing to implement the actions that the President promised on July 8, 2015 for their emotional, social, material and financial needs? Why do the officials of the Government only always remember to engage with the parents and community as a reaction to what they consider “embarrassing media attention”?
Fifth, the Minister in his statement alleged that the Federal Government has launched “renewed efforts” to rescue the girls. The information raises a few questions. Members of our movement, like all reasonable people, now wonder when this “renewed effort” was launched? Was it launched after the Cable News Network -CNN- released a “proof-of-life” video, on 13 April 2016, in which some of our girls appeared, and a few parents identified their daughters? We ask this because we do recall that the same Minister of Information had curiously discredited and asked the public to discountenance that video. Or was the renewed effort launched after the 17th May 2016 return of one of our missing girls – Amina Ali Nkeki? Or did the Government’s “renewed effort” commence after the 14th August 2016 release of a “plea-for-rescue” video by the terrorists which showed one of our abducted girls pleading to be rescued with her schoolmates? When exactly was the renewed effort launched?
A very clear work plan with defined timelines are key for assessing the expectations and outcomes that the Federal Government has for the “renewed effort it says it has launched. The Minister stated that “the Government knows with whom our girls are, and are willing to go along with their conditions (within reason) but are limited by the terrorists’ tendency to vary their demands for a swap”. What this raises is the criticality for the crucial for the parents, community and our movement to know whether this means in practicality. Surely, this operation to rescue these innocent young women cannot be an open ended one? It simply must be better managed as an operation with clear decision points and milestones with better transparency and accountability to their parents and all other interested stakeholders.
B. INVITATION BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO THE UNITED NATIONS TO INTERMEDIATE.
On 22 September 2016, at the just concluded UN General Assembly, President Buhari requested the UN to help in negotiations with the terrorists to get our girls back. We however observed from news reports of the meeting that the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, did not respond to this direct request to deploy the UN’s capacity and all its assets to rescue these global citizens.
Whereas as a movement we welcome the request made to the United Nations especially as we also have continually called on the rest of the world to support our government in its rescue mission, we must reiterate that it is the primary duty of our government to make the decisions and carry out the actions that would lead to their return. Therefore, the invitation to the UN should in no way signal any attempt to abdicate this core duty that our government owes to Nigerian citizens. The principle of social contract places the constitutional obligation to rescue our 218 missing Chibok girls and all other citizens of our country currently in captivity on the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Nevertheless, our movement calls on the United Nations to fully support our Government of Nigeria’s decision to negotiate the release of the 218 #ChibokGirls.
C. ADDRESSING THE LATEST CONFUSION CREATED BY RECENT STATEMENT OF THE NIGERIA ARMY.
Continuing with the litany of contradictory statements on the rescue activities of the Federal Government, we were again surprised when only three days after President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the Nigerian Army appeared to overrule their Commander-in-Chief on the decision to negotiate the release of our #ChibokGirls. In the news report of the Army Spokesperson’s reaction to a new Boko Haram video released on 25th September 2016, the Military vehemently dismissed any discussions between Government and the terrorists.
Over the last eighteen months, there were always allegations of in-fighting between the military and security establishments as even alluded to in the September 16th Ministerial briefing. That lack of coordination and synergy is a major problem we had many times in the past asked the government to resolve in order to facilitate speedy rescue of our #ChibokGirls.
However, nothing in time past rises up to the extent of public contradiction of the President, Commander-in-Chief by the military he supervises. Our movement is extremely shocked at this development and therefore caution that #ChibokGirls must not continue to be treated as pawns on a bureaucratic chessboard. Can Mr. President therefore urgently meet with his military and security team to unify the position of his administration on their approach for rescuing for OUR #ChibokGirls?
D. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS ADVISED TO RESTORE INTEGRITY AND CREDIBILITY TO GOVERNANCE AND PUBLIC COMMUNICATION
In 2014, under the previous administration, our movement did a study of the Nigerian state’s communication in the first 200 days (14 April – 31 October 2014) of the abduction. The evidence presented a pattern of contradictions, falsehoods, attacks on the #BringBackOurGirls movement and its leaders, etc. This we compiled and published as the “Chronicles of false narratives and inconsistencies by the Nigerian government over the rescue of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls” – http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/?p=1.
At the 8 July 2015 meeting, we gave Mr President a copy of the publication, urging him to prevent a repeat in his administration, but rather focus on doing the right things to bring back our girls. Regrettably, nothing has changed. It is for this reason that we shall on 14 October 2016, which will be 30 months since the abduction of our girls (should they not already be rescued by then); unveil the “Chronicles of false narratives and inconsistencies by the Nigerian government over the rescue of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls II.” This will cover the period of 16 months of this administration (29 May 2015 – 30 September 2016).
Clearly, insincerity, inconsistencies, and outright falsehoods are continuing to impede the rescue efforts of government for our #ChibokGirls and our factual chronicle of this may be the awakening this new administration needs in other to change its strategy. After all, it is these obstacles to speedy operation that may be the key reasons for the 900 days failure, at this point, to rescue our #ChibokGirls. It is pertinent to note that whereas the former government failed our ChibokGirls for 410 days, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has disappointingly failed them for 490 days today. How many more days shall this government fail our innocent school girls?
E. PARENTS SUPPORT PROGRAM AND MATTERS ARISING ON REHABILITATION OF AMINA ALI NKEKI
Within the review period, one more parent died of grief. Four days ago, on the 26th of September, another parent died in Boko Haram attacks in Kumburbula, in Chibok Local Government of Borno State. This brings the total number of deceased parents to 20. Many more of the parents continue to suffer from various degrees of trauma-related ailments. The health condition of Amina Ali Nkeki’s mother, of having to return to Borno and therefore once again separated from her long lost daughter, begs for re-evaluation. What welfare program is available to her and all the other traumatised parents?
Where is Amina? Where exactly is Amina? And what is the status of her promised rehabilitation and reintegration? What is the status of the terrorism, wilful abduction and sexual violence case that should already have started through the federal government against the man, Mohammed Hayatu, in whose company she was found in Sambisa Forest?
F. OUR TWO KEY DEMANDS ON DAY 900
1. We demand that the President, the Military and Security Team engages with three key countries of the Un Security Council namely United States, United Kingdom and France. We ask that these three countries supported by the United Nations Organization began urgent collaboration with the government of Nigeria to execute the lowest risk option for retrieving our #ChibokGirls. Our Government has the primary duty to lead this effort but the world owes Chibok Girls the responsibility of supporting their rescue because our girls are global citizens. We therefore plead with these three countries and the United Nations, as well as and every other country, institutions, groups and individuals with relevant expertise, to offer support necessary to #BringBackOurGirls. 900 Days is simply too long a time for the world to fail these young women who went to school to be educated only to end up as hostages of terrorists.
2. We demand that the Federal Government should, in the light of the many contradictions evidenced by our info-graphic mapping of its numerous public pronouncements, promptly overhaul its communication on this tragedy. We ask the President to direct as a matter of urgency, the setting up of a 24/7 Situation Room, composed of senior officials of the military and security teams as well as others who have a role to play in the negotiation proposed. The situation room should provide declassified information on a timely manner as the government’s accountability to the parents of #ChibokGirls, the Chibok community, our movement and the public at varying degrees of disclosure.
In conclusion, we wish to kindly ask everyone listening to us or reading all over the world to consider this poignant questions –
“You know where your daughters, your sisters, your cousins, your nieces, your friends are even as you read this. #ChibokGirls’ parents do not know where theirs are. Would you be silent if your daughters, your sisters, your cousins, your nieces and your friends were missing? Would you sleep on their matter? Would you give up on their rescue? Would you move on without them?”
For our movement, we simply cannot move on. We shall in fact not move on. As a movement we made a pledge that we shall not stop demanding for their rescue until our #ChibokGirls are brought back. It was their tragedy that brought our diverse group of people out on April 30, 2014 on the basis of Shared Humanity and the principle of Social Contract that every government owes its citizens. We shall therefore remain steadfast, focused, and unwavering in demanding accountability for our #ChibokGirls. We shall not stop until our girls are back.
To that end, we have from today commenced the monitoring of all actions of our Federal Government and shall do so over the next four weeks. At the end of four weeks, if our girls are still not back, we shall recommence our marches to Aso Villa to highlight the urgency for action. Whereas our marches were 72-hourly outings, the next marches shall be on 48-hourly basis.
We once again as is our tradition, salute the gallantry of our security forces at the frontlines of battle. We salute the members of the Multinational Joint Taskforce (MNJTF), the Civilian JTF, and all other security forces sacrificing day and night. We appreciate you all and your many families and loved ones for the incredible sacrifice you make for country and people. Every day that we meet at the Unity Fountain, we do pray for you and therefore are convinced that your sacrifice shall not be in vain.
Signed: For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls