SPECIAL REPORT BY THE #BringBackOurGirls Movement FOLLOWING THE RETURN OF FOUR OF ITS MEMBERS AS PART OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, LOCAL AND FOREIGN MEDIA GUIDED TOUR OF THE SAMBISA WAR ZONE
20 January 2018
Today is Day 1012 of the abduction of our Chibok girls, taken from their school, Government Secondary School, Chibok by terrorists on 14 April 2014, Day 602 under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch, and Day 997 of consistent daily advocacy for their return as 195 of them remain missing.
For Day 1000 of our Chibok Girls abduction on January 8, 2017, our movement held a Global Week of Action (GWA) with seven days of twenty-four hourly marches to the exit into the Aso Villa office and residence of the President of Nigeria. On the fifth day of our GWA, being 12th of January, 2017, we received a letter from the Federal Government inviting #BBOG to a “Guided Tour of the North East” commencing the following two working days. The invitation came as a surprise considering the history of adversarial actions against our movement over the last one year by the Federal Government. Nevertheless our BBOG movement responded by welcoming the opportunity to explore a tour of Sambisa with our Military but on the prior condition that a pre-tour meeting would hold to help clarify various issues of concern to us. In its response to that demand, the FG pleaded that due to operational and cost constraints, it could not delay the tour date, urging us to reconsider and join with local and foreign journalists that were on the delegation to observe the air component of the counterinsurgency war by Nigeria Air Force.
The #BBOG team was led by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili (Co-convener), Aisha Yesufu, (Chair, #BBOG Strategic Team), Ibrahim Usman (Member representing our Sit-out), and Dr. Manasseh Allen (Representative, Chibok Community and Uncle to some of the abducted Chibok Girls).
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DELEGATION
The Federal Government was led by the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Information and Culture and included the Chief of Air Staff. Several Journalists from both local and international news media were also on the Guided Tour.
BBOG STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVE FOR ACCEPTING TO PARTICIPATE IN THE FG GUIDED TOUR
In consideration of the FG’s inability to reschedule the tour, we reviewed our original position and decided to join the “Guided Tour”. We thereafter framed our objective for the tour as “an opportunity to directly learn from our Military the operational objectives, successes, failures and constraints involved in its effort to rescue our Chibok Girls and other abducted citizens even as it secures and defends our national territorial integrity in order to empower our advocacy for the rescue of our remaining 195 ChibokGirls and other abducted citizens”.
BBOG ALWAYS HAD CONFIDENCE IN OUR TROOPS IN THE FRONTLINE OF BATTLE
Even as we framed the Objective for our movement’s participation in the Guided Tour of the war zone, we consider it important for the records to reiterate that our movement was never in doubt that our troops at the frontlines of the counterinsurgency war are giving their best effort to the task of searching for and finding our daughters. We were never in doubt that our troops are doing their utmost to finding and rescuing all other citizens we as a nation never even knew were in terrorist captivity. We were never in doubt that our troops were sacrificing with their lives to secure and defend the territorial integrity of our country. Indeed, like most Nigerians, members of our movement individually and collectively take pride in the capacity and commitment of our troops fighting in the frontline of battle.
Our advocacy is entirely directed at the leadership of the federal government and the military establishments which have the strategic responsibility to adequately resource our troops with the appropriate tools, equipment, guidance and decisions that they must have in order to be effective and achieve results. Evidently, since our ChibokGirls were abducted and our Movement began advocating for their rescue, what the public sees–especially in the early years of the terrorist insurgency–is failure of leadership to appropriately prioritize, resource, guide troops and make strategic decisions for their rescue. It is for this reason that our movement defined our advocacy as a Demand for Good Governance from those who have the constitutional mandate to ensure the security and welfare of citizens like our Chibok Girls.
ACTIVITIES AND BRIEFINGS OF THE NIGERIA AIR FORCE LED GUIDED TOUR OF SAMBISA GENERAL AREA WAR ZONE 16-17 JANUARY 2017
On Monday 16th January, 2017 at 8.53 am our movement’s four member-team, the Minister of Information and Culture, local and foreign journalists on the delegation, departed the Air Force base at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Hercules C130 air craft.
On arrival at the Yola Air Force at 10.35 am, the delegation was received by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar. The Minister of Defense, Mr. Mansur Dan-Ali and the representative of the Chief of Defense Staff arrived concurrently and the full delegation was ushered the briefing room of the holding room of the Nigerian Air Force.
The Guided Tour was a combination of briefs and search flights into the war zone called “The Sambisa General Area” by the military. The briefings were categorized into segments with Air Force officers and experts led by the Chief of Air Staff. They made technology powered presentations on various aspects of the counter-insurgency war as well as basic general routines of the Command. The delegation was given access to the analysis and technical war room of the Nigeria Air Force. Crucially, two members of our BBOG Team were on the two Sorties– Flight Searches–that took place at day and at nighttime during the Guided Tour.
THE KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BBOG PARTICIPATION IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT-LED GUIDED TOUR OF SAMBISA GENERAL AREA HOSTED BY NIGERIA AIR FORCE:
- We had interactions with the leadership and the officials of the Nigerian Air Force that enabled our Movement to assess the quality of the personnel in the establishment. We can confirm that the air component of the counter insurgency war is being prosecuted by a highly professional, capable, motivated and committed team of the Nigeria Air Force. Furthermore, the presentation by the Chief of Air Staff on the training and human capital development strategy of the NAF enabled us to appreciate its plans for the future.
- We saw that Data, Knowledge and Information Analysis play a major role in the strategy of the Nigerian Air Force prosecuting the air component of the war.
- Our exposure to the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform and the technical room of NAF indicated the level of adoption of technology in the prosecution of the war.
- We were presented data on the growing fleet of ISRs, fighter jets, Helicopter Gunships and other tools and equipment available to prosecute the air component of the war by NAF.
- We observed the Coordination between the NAF and the Nigerian Army which prosecutes the ground component of the war was demonstrably strong as we saw evidence of the manner in which they share information toward achieving results.
- We were provided data and imagery evidence to show that the search for our Chibok Girls and other abducted citizens is a daily activity by NAF. The data sheet showing the summary of all search operations was displayed with the following key data points over the last eighteen months by NAF:
- Total Missions to Sambisa General Area–2,105
- Number of Sorties— 3,534
- Time/Hour of flight— 6,323
- Fuel Cost: Over N2.4 Billion
- The Day Sortie — that is, the 3 hours search flight on the ISR platform in which we participated on Monday 16 January had us being flown at as low as 15,000 feet. It enabled us to see the theatre of war in Sambisa and to clearly observe activities on the ground via the technology platform within the aircraft. We observed cases of human movement and saw a woman running with a child. When our Day Sortie report was later analyzed, it showed that 14 women were gathered around a suspicious location which the NAF designated as the “Tree of Life” because it has been suspecting enemy movement around that spot. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) stated that they would probe the result further with their army colleagues in order to determine the appropriate response.
- The Night Sortie— At 2.41 AM on Tuesday, we participated in the Night Sortie which involved a similar flight search of the theatre of war like we did during the day. We were told by the NAF that until the acquisition of more equipment by our military since July 2015, the terrorists used to be most active at night time as darkness offered them advantage. It was usually during the night that they moved their captives who are mostly women, girls and children across locations. Interestingly, our Night Sortie only revealed one movement on the ground– an animal foraging for food.
- The searches enable the NAF to also sight enemy activities and to determine appropriate response jointly with the Nigerian Army. The Air Force presentation revealed its missions in which it sighted Boko Haram terrorists (BHT) as well as abducted persons running fleeing from their captors especially during the operation that led to the capture of Camp Zairo. For example, some dates on which sightings were made are Kangarwa: 1st and 6th January, Dogon Chiku: 6th January and Chikun Gudu: 8th, 10th, 12th and 16th January.
- Data trends like level of equipment of NAF and their direct impact on volume of observed enemy activities within the Sambisa General Area proved the correlation between adequate resourcing of the troops and results. Our flight into the Sambisa General Area on the ISR platform showed low suspected enemy activities compared to the data of previous year.
- Better understanding of a key military language like the celebrated “capture of Camp Zairo” which previously to our movement and the larger public meant that capture of the entire vast land of Sambisa General Area. We now also know that the capture of Camp Zairo is significant because it used to be the operational base of the terrorists. With its capture, the military has achieved a major degradation of the capacity of the terrorists to launch attacks on our country.
- We became aware that our troop must remain in Sambisa General Area which the NAF data presented as 60,000 square kilometers and equivalent to 18 times the size of Lagos. (There is currently a public contention and debate over this data and so our Movement calls on the NAF in the promotion of transparency to clarify the accuracy for everyone’s understanding). The legitimate fear of regrouping of the enemies to relaunch new attacks means that our military on air and on ground operations must continue.
- There is no contradiction in the fact of the recovery of Camp Zairo by our troops and yet our Chibok Girls not having been recovered at that same time. This is because, in view of the vast land of the Sambisa General Area, our Chibok Girls could have been taken to a new base into which the terrorists relocated when they fled Camp Zairo.