N/Assembly demands strong military action
‘Soldiers ill-equipped despite budgetted trillions’ Mark: Nigerians need daily progress report Wailing Chibok women protest in Abuja
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.
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.
Chibok women at the National Assembly in Abuja urging for action on the abducted Borno schoolgirls.