Nigerian forces in the area had advance warning of more than four hours.
As foreign experts begin to arrive the country to help the Nigerian military in the search of the over 250 girls kidnapped from the Government College, Chibok, 24 days ago, global human rights organisation, Amnesty International, AI, Friday released a statement claiming Nigerian authorities received prior warning of the raid on the school but failed to act.
AI’s interviews with multiple credible sources revealed that the Nigerian forces in the area had advance warning of more than four hours that the school was going to be raided but did not do enough to prevent it.
“It amounts to a gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians, who remain sitting ducks for such attacks. The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls’ safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again,” said Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Research and Advocacy, Netsanet Belay.
Amnesty International said sources at the military headquarters in Maiduguri confirmed that at 7 pm on April 14 -the day of the kidnap – the military received news of an impending raid on Chibok town but could not deploy soldiers to counter the better armed insurgents due to poor resources and fear among troop of engaging the group.
“The small contingent of security forces based in the town – 17 army personnel as well as local police –attempted to repel the Boko Haram assault but were overpowered and forced to retreat. One soldier reportedly died,” the statement read.
Amidst accusations of horrific human rights violations and extra-judicial killings, the army has come under severe accusations for its failure to contain the rampaging killings perpetrated by the insurgent group, Boko Haram. The army is believed to be ill-equipped and the will to fight is at an all-time low. There have been reports of soldiers fleeing their positions when confronted by the insurgents.
The government said it has spent over N1 trillion on defence in the last three years – N372 billion in 2012; N364.2 billion in 2013 and N340.3 billion in 2014. But almost nothing tangible has been seen in the areas of effectiveness and equipment to justify such huge allocations.
“The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram’s impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,” said Mr. Belay.
According to sources interviewed by Amnesty International, local civilian patrols (known as “vigilantes”, set up by the military and local authorities) in Gagilam, a neighbouring village, were among the first to raise the alarm on the evening of 14 April after a large group of unidentified armed men entered their village on motorbikes and said they were headed to Chibok. This set off a rapid chain of phone calls to alert officials, including the Borno State Governor and senior military commanders based in Maiduguri.
“Between 7:00 PM on 14 April and 2:00 AM on 15 April, the military commands in Damboa, 36.5 km away from Chibok, and Maiduguri, 130 km away from Chibok, were repeatedly alerted to the threat by both security and local officials,” the statement read.
But the warning was ignored.
“At around 10:00 PM on 14 April, I called [several] security officers to inform them about earlier information I had received from the vigilantes in Gagilam village. They had told us that strange people had arrived in their village that evening on motorbikes and they said they were heading to Chibok. I made several other calls, including to Maiduguri. I was promised by the security people that reinforcement were on their way,” a local official in Gagilam told AI.
Another local official also told AI that herdsmen had informed them that armed men had asked them the direction to the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok that evening.
Nigerian authorities are in the habit of accusing locals of hiding insurgents and refusing to inform the military of insurgents’ activities in their areas.
According to AI, two senior army officers confirmed that the military received calls from locals warning of an impending attack in Chibok town but was unable to send reinforcement due to its inadequacies.
“There’s a lot of frustration, exhaustion and fatigue among officers and [troops] based in the hotspots… Many soldiers are afraid to go to the battle fronts,” the military official was quoted as saying.
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