#BringBackOurGirls at the Military High Command, By Oby Ezekwsili, Saudatu Mahdi and Hadiza Bala Usman
After five intensive days of rallies and marches to the National Assembly and the Office of the National Security Adviser, the #BringBackOurGirls Movement marched yesterday to the Defence Headquarters to hold a scheduled meeting with the military high command. The objective of the meeting was to articulate our concerns and obtain a detailed briefing from the Armed Forces on the state of play relative to our demand to BringBackOurGirls. After a two-hour march, we were received at the office of the Chief of Defence Staff by a formidable team of Generals.
We stated the following concerns and demands. Since Monday 14th April 2014 when over 200 young female students from the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, Borno State were abducted by heavily armed men, millions around the world have been unable to come to terms with the loss. We arrive at the military High Command on behalf of millions of Nigerian women and men to call on the Federal Government and the security agencies to find and bring back these girls currently living in captivity:
1) We expressed our concern over the fact that three weeks after the abduction, there is still no substantive newsfeed or public evidence on what is being done to rescue the girls;
2) We expressed our surprise at how it could be possible in this age of drones, Google Maps, and aerial surveillance that over 200 girls would vanish without a trace.
3) We queried why there was no protection for these children in schools in the North East in spite of the advance warning derived from the devastation and pain of the 59 innocent children murdered in Federal Government College, Buni Yadi on February 25th 2014.
4) We questioned how under a state of emergency, 4 trucks and numerous motor bikes could be deployed, move in a convoy, unleash terror on the school at Chibok for four hours unchallenged and then flee with over 200 girls to a location yet to be determined by Nigeria’s security institutions.
5) We asked for explanations of why, despite the massive increase in security spending (up to N1 trillion in 2013 and N845 Billion in 2014), Nigerians are not safer; and our security and military personnel are reported to be under equipped and ill prepared to face the ever-growing security challenges confronting the country.
6) We drew the attention of the Military High Command that it is their responsibility to BringBackOurGirls and that we needed to know why that had not yet happened.
7) We demanded for significant bulge in ground troops to raise action capacity and adequacy.
The military high command responded with a detailed power point presentation of their efforts so far and requested that for the sake of the security of the girls and the success of the operations, we should not divulge some of the confidential information provided. They assured us of the following:
- Troops are effectively deployed on the ground, are making steady progress in the efforts to rescue the girls and the results of their efforts will soon become apparent.
- The operation is difficult and delicate and to avoid providing vital information to the enemy, they have been discrete about their activities.
- Intelligence is a vital part of asymetrical warfare and all citizens should commit to feeding accurate and useful information to our security agencies.
Following elaborate discussions and debate, the following challenges were identified as vital elements on which the whole country should work to ensure that the girls are rescued as soon as possible and alive:
- There has been a decline in trust and confidence between the military and local communities, a situation that has played in favour of the enemy and the time has come for confidence building and cooperation among all stakeholders, the Federal Government, State and Local Governments, security agencies and local communities.
- There has been a deficit of information flow and communication between the security agencies and citizens, and there is an urgent need to address this lacuna even if it is understood that for security reasons, operational details might not be revealed.
- Over the past three years, a lot of resources have been provided for security agencies. We require security budget analysis to provide information on Value for Money, (budget effectiveness and efficiency), and the use of the information obtained for better prioritization and/or augmentation with the key objective of better equipping and resourcing of operations.
- There is need for an Operational Review of current Counter Insurgency Strategy and design of an Accountability Matrix to accompany the process by using Chibok as a test case.
- Building the morale of our troops is a collective responsibility and we should do all that is possible to maintain their morale while they will need to demonstrate their commitment and resolve to #BringBackOurGirls.
- These interactions between the armed forces and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign should be sustained.
In view of the commencement of the World Economic Forum starting today Wednesday, our sittings are temporarily shifted to Maitama Amusement park at the normal time of 3 p.m.
Dr Oby Ezekwsili, Hajia Saudatu Mahdi and Hadiza Bala Usman, prepared this report on behalf of the undersigned of the Women for Justice & Peace Under the auspices of the Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN)