Matters Arising from the Arrest of Two Female Suicide Bombers (Including One, a Self-Professed Chibok Girl) in Cameroon; and the Nigerian Government’s Response
6 April 2016
Following the incident of Friday 26 March, 2016, wherein two females carrying explosives were arrested in the northern Cameroonian town of Limani–one of which professed to be one of our Chibok girls–we feel obligated, as a movement in the forefront of the advocacy for the rescue of our 219 Chibok girls (as well as other abductees of Boko Haram, and related issues), to offer our well-considered positions on the matter.
We are convinced that our positions and suggestions will be useful for our especially the Nigerian government in the on-going operations to rescue all Nigerian abductees and our 219 Chibok girls who were taken under distressing conditions from their school on the night of 14 April 2014.
While we commend the gallantry of men of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), the Nigerian military, and other security forces for their relentless warfare to secure the region and Nigeria respectively; we expect a quicker, more responsive and professional handling of issues of this nature in the future.
The critical points of note are:
The present communication channel between the government and the parents of our Chibok girls is unrepresentative of the sensitivity of the issue. Proper exchanges hardly happen. It explains the frustration of the parents and their perception of the absence of empathy from government at both the state and federal level. Promises and assurances of concern are not enough. Provisions of welfare support when made available cannot be final and conclusive. There is a gapping need for constant and regular interactions.
Government must see to it that the parents are reached with information ahead of the media. Having them read about developments like what happened in Limani in the media like everybody else, without reaching out to them, potentially can worsen their trauma and deepen their psychological imbalance.
WHAT CAN GOVERNMENT DO?
A. Ensure a Presidency staff from the Office of the Vice President is designated to maintain communication with the families of the Chibok girls and established abducted Nigerians in Boko Haram captivity.
B. Among the MNJTF partner countries, a protocol of communication should be put in place for such irregular development as was witnessed in Limani, Cameroon. The protocol shall provide for systematic release of such information, to augment existing systems.
C. Where the development occurs in a non-MNJTF country, same protocol of communication should be deployed for use of Nigerian embassies or high commissions.
2. EARLY RESPONSE FRAMEWORK: Timely attendance to issues of this sensitive nature mitigate potential distrust of information flow. The delay in response to the initial abduction of 2014 evidently worsened the rescue operations and the counter-insurgency war. Timely and early attention will be a mirage without the design of a workable framework that is known and imparted on potential actors in the chain of operation.
WHAT CAN GOVERNMENT DO?
A. Adopt the BBOG-developed Verification, Authentication, and Reintegration System (VARS); or develop or adopt an operational framework for identification, verification, authentication, re-unification and re-integration of Nigerian citizens wherever and whenever they are found or rescued from in the course of the counter-insurgency war. The framework will help ease identification processes and authenticate claims of citizens faster. The HOWs of their reintegration into the country and reunification with their families will be clear and all administrative players will be sure of their briefs.
B. Prepare potential actors in the chain of government operations for eventualities through a simulative training and use of the adopted or developed framework.
C. Establish without ambiguity Task Bearers in the event of a similar occurrence like one witnessed in Limani and, recently, across Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states as our military liberates community after community.
3. CHIBOK GIRLS PROFILING & MISSING PERSONS IDENTIFICATION:
While the BBOG has been at the forefront of the advocacy for the rescue of the Chibok girls, we by no stretch assume that they are the only Nigerians held in captivity by Boko Haram. But their abduction has remained the symbol among others, for the fight for the education of the girl child in Nigeria. It is one of the many reasons we keep demanding that more be done for their rescue and potential return.
Are we ready as a nation for their return?
Can we unambiguously profile each one of the 219 girls besides just having their individual headshots?
Do we have their academic records and history?
Do we have their DNA collection?
Have we collated the DNA records of their parents?
Have any personnel of government gotten well-abreast of the Chibok abduction issue to the point of proficiency?
WHAT CAN GOVERNMENT DO?
A. Develop a detailed dossier for each of the 219 girls through collation of information from their families. Such dossier should have family details like parents’ and siblings’ names; parents last known occupation, address and social status, etc.
B. Distribute the dossier of the girls to neighbouring countries and embassies and of other countries within the Nigerian border. Develop partners, stakeholders and the media should be availed of the dossier too.
C. In the case of other missing citizens of Nigeria, we should formalize the responsibilities for the setting up of a Missing Persons Bureau or desk situated within the relevant department or agency of government. The MPB should be empowered to collate details of missing persons nationally into a register that is accessible online to accredited or registered stakeholders.
D. Plan for the establishment of a DNA Analysis Centre in the country. The need for this cannot be over-emphasized. In the long run, this will remove confusions about identities of people, whether from the scene of an accident or from the theatre of war in the northeast. It will help identify mass of people buried horrifically in shallow graves across the occupied local government areas (LGAs) that were under Boko Haram control for some time.
E. Start DNA details compilation with the Chibok girls as test case. Track down their families and follow it through from there. It is not a difficult task for the government to execute.
4. OWNERSHIP & COORDINATION:
The incidence under reference showed an obvious lack of ownership and a lacuna in the coordination of necessary activities that needed be done with despatch, by governments, both federal and state. The Borno State Government appeared like on-looker in an issue that had it in the centre. Chibok is in Southern Borno. The abduction happened while the incumbent Governor was in power. The two arrested would-be suicide bombers claimed to be from and residents of Borno. There is no reason why such sloppiness, disinterest, and lack of empathy should rear its head. The Government ought to be or should have demanded to be at the forefront of the identification process.
WHAT CAN GOVERNMENT DO?
A. Create multi-layered and inter-government coordinating platforms with oversight leadership by the Office of the Vice President for the Chibok girls and all abducted citizens. The platform should function like a working group with occasional sittings and, include state and non-state actors alike. The NSA’s Office should be the operational anchor.
Accommodation should be made for CSOs and iNGOs in the platform. The media should also be represented.
B. As long as the insurgency tarries, the Government of Borno State (having suffered the most devastation from the insurgency) should endeavour to take the lead in cases like the one we had in Limani, Cameroon, through collaboration with KADA (Kibaku Area Development Association), when it concerns our Chibok girls.
We hope that our intervention shall be considered in good faith and implemented accordingly.
Today is 8 days to 2 years of our Chibok girls’ abduction. We shall commence our Global Week of Action #GWA to mark 2 years since the abduction of our Chibok Girls this Friday 8 April, 2016. Here is the link to our Schedule of Activities for Abuja and some cities around the world: http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/2-years-activity-schedule/.
We urge everyone wherever you may be in Nigeria and around the world to all participate.
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls
HADIZA BALA USMAN