N/As­sem­bly de­mands strong mil­i­tary ac­tion

‘Soldiers ill-equipped de­spite bud­get­ted tril­lions’ Mark: Nige­ri­ans need daily progress re­port Wail­ing Chi­bok women protest in Abuja

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Tu­raki A. Has­san

Sen­a­tors yes­ter­day united in anger over fail­ure of the se­cu­rity forces to free the 234 Borno school­girls who have been in Boko Haram cap­tiv­ity for more than two weeks.

The fe­male stu­dents were taken from their hos­tels at the Govern­ment Girls Sec­ondary School Chi­bok on the night of April 14 by in­sur­gents who also set fire to the build­ings.

Forty of the about 270 kid­napped girls es­caped in the days af­ter, but the re­main­ing have since van­ished with­out trace. On Mon­day, a Chi­bok el­der told Daily Trust that most the girls had been fer­ried to Chad and Cameroon af­ter they were mar­ried off to in­sur­gents.

The Se­nate yes­ter­day de­bated a mo­tion spon­sored by Se­nate Leader Vic­tor Ndoma-Egba and 107 sen­a­tors, dur­ing which sen­a­tors ex­pressed con­cern that se­cu­rity agencies have failed to free the girls two weeks af­ter they were ab­ducted.

Sen­a­tors said de­spite yearly bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions run­ning into tril­lions of naira, there is noth­ing on ground to show that the money was be­ing used ju­di­ciously to equip soldiers and mo­ti­vate them to fight the war against Boko Haram.

Se­nate Pres­i­dent David Mark, who read out a strong­ly­worded speech at the start of the ses­sion, said, “There is no doubt that our na­tion is at war. The en­emy has clearly and un­equiv­o­cally served the na­tion no­tice of its vile in­ten­tions. There­fore, a clear, un­am­bigu­ous and de­ci­sive mil­i­tary re­sponse from the govern­ment, be­yond the im­po­si­tion of a state of emer­gency, is ur­gently re­quired in this cir­cum­stance. This is an op­tion we must con­sider now.”

He added: “The mil­i­tary is not get­ting it right. The na­tion ought to be briefed daily on the ac­tions that the govern­ment is tak­ing to res­cue these girls. When the (World) eco­nomic fo­rum opens (in Abuja), they are not go­ing to dis­cuss econ­omy but the 230 girls.

“It is ob­vi­ous that we are deal­ing with in­sur­gents and well-funded ni­hilists who are de­ter­mined to vi­o­lently tram­ple upon the sec­u­lar­ity of the Nige­rian State and de­stroy the coun­try. We must hence­forth shift from fight­ing ter­ror­ism to fight­ing in­sur­gency.”

Leading de­bate on the mo­tion which was the only is­sue dis­cussed dur­ing yes­ter­day’s ple­nary ses­sion, Ndoma-Egba ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment over fail­ure of the mil­i­tary to res­cue any of the girls yet.

“We are dis­ap­pointed that two weeks af­ter their dis­ap­pear­ance, the girls’ where­abouts are still un­known. We are also afraid that time is run­ning out on the res­cue of these girls as their cap­tors may break them into var­i­ous hide­outs,” he said.

Sen­a­tors were shocked af­ter Se­na­tor Ahmed Zan­nah, who rep­re­sents Borno Cen­tral, gave an ac­count of how the mil­i­tary failed to act on in­for­ma­tion he has been giv­ing them on the move­ments of the in­sur­gents with the girls.

“I have con­stantly told the se­cu­rity about the state the girls were in. When­ever I get in­for­ma­tion, the next day or two they would be moved to an­other lo­ca­tion and I lost hope two days ago when they were moved to Chad and Cameroon from the cur­rent base just by the Lake Chad,” Zan­nah said.

He said the in­sur­gents had ear­lier sacked vil­lagers liv­ing on 40 is­lands in the Lake Chad and snatched all boats in­clud­ing the one be­long­ing to the Nige­rian Na­tional Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion (NNPC) with which they used to ferry the girls across to Chad and Cameroon.

“If there’s no will to fight them, we are wast­ing our time be­cause with­out co­op­er­a­tion from cer­tain people within the mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity cir­cle, they (Boko Haram) wouldn’t be suc­ceed­ing like this.... When we talk they say we are de­mor­al­is­ing them,” he said.

Se­na­tor Maina Ma’aji Lawan, who rep­re­sents Borno North, said the mil­i­tary have been ig­nor­ing in­for­ma­tion given to them on daily ba­sis by the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

Se­na­tor Mo­hammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) said: “We re­ported their lo­ca­tions to the mil­i­tary and noth­ing was done. We have to speak the truth.”

Ndume, who wept while speak­ing, said soldiers who were sup­posed to go af­ter the in­sur­gents went 150 kilo­me­ters in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

“No sin­gle new equip­ment is on ground in Borno de­spite bud­get­ing tril­lions for de­fence ev­ery year,” he said.

‘Their prob­lem’

Se­na­tor Eyin­naya Abaribe (PDP, Abia) said ini­tially most Nige­ri­ans from other parts of the coun­try thought the in­sur­gency was the prob­lem of the North East only.

“At a point when the mat­ter started in the North East and con­tin­ued to es­ca­late, most of us saw it as a mat­ter that con­cerned them only but to­day we all know bet­ter,” Abaribe said.

“Why should se­cu­rity agencies be given in­for­ma­tion and noth­ing is done? No fran­tic ef­fort was made by Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties to res­cue the girls. In South Korea, the Prime Min­is­ter re­signed fol­low­ing a ferry dis­as­ter why is our own dif­fer­ent?”

For her part, Se­na­tor He­len Esuene from Akwa Ibom said “We don’t have ex­cuse on this and if ac­tions were taken in the first two days they would have been res­cued. Now it’s Chi­bok, we don’t know where it will be next.”

Se­na­tor Ah­mad Lawan (APC, Yobe) said, “The Pres­i­dent has failed to visit these ar­eas to boost the morale of his troops and in­spire con­fi­dence of the com­mu­ni­ties to re­as­sure them be­cause the buck stops at his ta­ble.”

For Se­na­tor Mo­hammed Magoro (PDP, Kebbi), who chairs the Se­nate com­mit­tee on Na­tional Se­cu­rity and In­tel­li­gence, it was time for Nigeria to have a re­serve mil­i­tary unit who could be called up in times like this.

“It is the cheap­est and much ef­fec­tive way of fight­ing this war. If we are to win this war, the re­servists must be called-up, it was done in 1983,” he said.

Af­ter de­bat­ing the mo­tion, the Se­nate unan­i­mously passed a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the ab­duc­tion, and urged the Federal Govern­ment and se­cu­rity agencies to in­ten­sify ef­forts to im­me­di­ately res­cue the stu­dents. Sen­a­tors also called on the govern­ment to seek co­op­er­a­tion of coun­tries in West African and the United Na­tions.

PHOTO: ABUBAKAR YAKUBU

Chi­bok women at the Na­tional As­sem­bly in Abuja urg­ing for ac­tion on the ab­ducted Borno school­girls.

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