On April 14, suspected Boko Haramterrorists invaded Chibok. That invasion came one year after a foiled attempt that led to the burning of the police station in the community. I am not just concerned because this happened in Chibok, my own home. I am more worried that the Nigerian military in charge of security in Borno State, where a state of emergency had been imposed, was doing little to save the situation.
I understand that security agents were informed more than an hour before the insurgents entered Chibok, yet they made no efforts for reinforcement or evacuation of the endangered schoolgirls. On hearing the gunshots, the security agents reportedly fled for safety instead of standing their ground. According to them, the terrorists had more sophisticated weaponry. Unable to match Boko Haram’s firepower, they scampered for safety, removing their uniforms and collecting muftis from civilians to wear as they ran off.
Before their acts of destruction, looting, and arson, the Boko Haram insurgents moved from house to house, stealing vehicles to aid their movements and to enable them to abduct the defenseless schoolgirls. Yet, there was no military reinforcement from Dambua which is less than 40 kilometers away—and where the 195 Army Battalion is based.
We understand that, even after locals had reported the direction in which the insurgents went with their victims, the military made no effort to cordon off the zone in order to ensure that the insurgents did not escape the young innocent girls.
And when parents, vigilante groups and youth volunteers moved after the insurgents the second day, no single soldier, police officer or other security agent followed them. The coalition of community fighters came close to the Boko Haram camp, but heeded an advice by locals to pull back and seek military reinforcement because the Boko Haram insurgents were well equipped with deadly weapons. The local group stayed in the forest searching from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., yet there was no backup effort by the Nigerian army.
Three weeks later, President Goodluck Jonathan constituted a committee. The question is: to do what, exactly?
What’s worse, some highly placed individuals close to the government are now casting doubt on the whole abducting issue, threatening protesters, even detaining a community leader and elders for calling themselves mothers to the girls. First Lady Patience Jonathan even formed a mini-court to which she summoned government officials. What constitutional powers does she have to stage a public trial of government officers like a police commissioner and the abducted girls’ school principal?
Since she wants to run a probe, why did she not ask questions about the Chibok road that her husband awarded to a contractor since September 9, 2009, but has not been completed?
I understand that the Federal Government has been pressuring the Borno State government not to allow us to protest and demand the release of our sisters who are in detention. We are being silenced even though we are the primary stakeholders in this ongoing horror. We know the truth: that the Nigerian army is doing little in the fight against Boko Haram, and nothing about the rescue effort. If the Federal Government thinks protests are getting on its nerves, then let them expedite action and bring these girls back.
Some of the abducted girls are still making calls with their phones. Some are suspected to still be around Izge in Gwoza local government area. Others may be in Sambisa forest.
I wonder if 15 soldiers in Chibok could not have prevented Boko Haram from invading the town. As I write, I still believe that, any time Boko Haram issues a threat, they have the capacity to succeed based on what happened in Borno State.
I am concerned, angry and frustrated about the president’s too slow handling of the issue of the abducted girls. I wonder whether those around him are not telling him the real truth about this matter of the insurgency and level of military action needed to curtail it. Some military officers we had discussion with have stated that, given the right weapons and orders, they can solve the problem of the insurgency within a short period of time. If the Nigerian military lacks adequate weaponry, then the question is: where does the defense budget go?
The president should have quickly accepted help from the developed world to drive out these men of evil. He should talk tough as the commander-in-chief, and demand results from those in the field operations.
The military spokesman should stop lying and resign for initially claiming that the abducted girls had been abducted when he was nowhere close to the scene.
All we ask is that Nigerian authorities be serious about protecting the lives and property of all Nigerians, and in this particular case, finding innocent girls who have been abducted by an evil group. We shall continue to protest until the right effort to rescue the schoolgirls is employed in order to bring them safely home.
- -Allen Manasseh is chairman of the Board of Trustees, Kibaku Youth Association of Nigeria which represents the youth of Chibok in Borno State.