On Tuesday, David Mark, the Senate President declared during their deliberations of the girls abducted from Chibok that Nigeria is at war and called for a decisive military response from Government. As a retired general, he should know what he is talking about. The insurgents have been on war against Nigeria for the last three years and our military is not responding and is not protecting Nigerians from these incessant attacks.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) declared in its communiqué after a meeting this weekend that Boko Haram has been acting “with the active collaboration of some elements within the military and security circles.” Increasingly, Nigerians are asking questions of the military, the institution that has taken the largest chunk of the national budget over the last three years and there is no evidence that they are addressing the security challenges facing the country.
Since the 15th of April when over two hundred girls were abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Nigerians, and now the whole world is asking our authorities to #BringBackOurGirls as the twitter hash tag which has gone viral puts it. From Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl victim of terrorism through Isha Sesay of CNN to Nicholas Chrirtoff of New York Times and Mercy Johnson of Nollywood, the same request is being repeated all over. Action is also gathering pace with regular demonstrations in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Calabar, London, Washington D.C. and so on. The world is in deep shock at the dastardly act against these girls, but even more, at the incapacity of our security agencies to respond.
On the 19th day after the abduction, following growing protests all over the world, the Nigerian Government decided to set up a fact finding committee, which is proof they had been doing nothing previously. At the same time, the wife of the President said the Borno State Governor should produce the girls. It would have been funny were the issues not so serious. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and state governors have no security agencies under their command. With which forces will the Governor go and get the girls.
The Woman Leader of the ruling PDP had also publicly suggested that there is no evidence that the girls were taken away as no names and pictures have been shown. This level of cruelty to the girls and their relations and indeed all Nigerians is unprecedented in our national history. In Abuja, the #BringBackOurGirls Movement has been holding daily marches and rallies on the issue since 30th April. The Chibok community in Abuja and a wide spectrum of Nigerians have been actively participating. One of the issues that have emerged from the rallies is that the girls were taken from a government secondary school and the state government has confirmed the incident. Providing the names and photographs of the girls while they are still in captivity would further jeopardise their security.
What has been most shocking about the Chibok abduction has been the reports that the communities affected were constantly providing information to security agencies about what was happening but no response was forthcoming. The attack in Chibok took place during four hours when they took the girls, ransacked the town and burnt down buildings. The place is reported to be less than two hours from the nearest military formation but they did not come to stop the attacks.
According to Senator Ahmed Zanna from Borno State who addressed the rally, they received and passed on regular information to the security agencies on where the abductors were. The trip from Chibok he said took 48 hours during which the abductors stopped to get food prepared, had vehicle breakdowns and spent time trying to fix them and burning them when they failed to do the repairs. He also said that the Borno State Government has also been following the movement of the girls through tips from communities but the security agencies were refusing to take the Government into confidence.
Finally, Senator Zanna lamented the fact that the huge security vote appropriated for the war against the insurgency had apparently not been used for the purpose of buying equipment to prosecute the war, as there is no evidence of any new supplies over the period.
Another participant at the Abuja rally was the Senator for Borno South, the constituency of the girls, Mohammed Ali Ndume. He explained that he had been falsely accused of being a financer of Boko Haram. He came with two of his immediate junior sisters, both of whom are Christians. He added that their mother died as the regional women’s leader of the COCIN Church. His family is equally divided between Christians and Muslims so how could he sponsor a group that is trying to kill his own mother and sisters. He also came with his wife whose senior brother had been killed by the terrorists. Terrorism, he explained has no religion or tribe, they are criminals out to kill.
He congratulated the organisers of the rally for giving hope not only to his Senatorial District which has been suffering so much from terrorism but to all Nigerians – that terrorism can be combatted. Precisely because of this, he called on all Nigerians to resist the trivialisation and tribalisation of the phenomenon by certain forces. He added that in his area, the civilian JTF has been more effective that the security agencies in resisting the insurgency. This is a real cause for alarm if those charged with providing our security are for whatever reason not doing their jobs.
In a democracy, the security agencies must be accountable to the people. In Nigeria, they do not even bother to brief citizens on what they are doing. All we are told is that the insurgents will soon be defeated. After three years of repeating this same message, we as citizens need to demand accountability from both the political and military leadership. What is happening and why are they not fighting the insurgents. It was Hajia Ireti Kingibe who said in one of the Abuja rallies that Government does to respond to talk, only action. She advised Nigerians to adopt the types of tactics deployed in the struggle against the third term agenda and when Government sees the real anger of the people, they will sit up. I completely agree with her.
From all indications, the purpose of the abduction of these girls is to use them as sex slaves and for forced labour. Over the past three years, thousands of girls have been abducted and the phenomena had not been really noticed because they were being captured in small numbers. What we are witnessing therefore is the return of slavery in 21st century Nigeria. This cannot be allowed to continue. Bring Back Our Girls. Lets all join the Movement so that we can compel them to Bring Back Our Girls.
Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, a member of the Premium Times Editorial Board, is one of the coordinating forces behind the #Bring Back Our Girls movement. He is a development consultant based in Abuja.