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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Dapchi: Security forces alerted before abduction – Amnesty





…says Army, Police aware of Boko Haram’s movement

 

 

Amnesty International, yesterday, revealed that Nigerian security forces got advance warnings that a convoy of Boko Haram fighters was heading towards Dapchi, a town where 110 schoolgirls were abducted by terrorists on February 19. The girls were abducted from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State in an assault reminiscent of the infamous Chibok girls’ abduction of April 2014.

In a report on the incident released yesterday, Amnesty International said that at least five calls were made to security forces between 2p.m. and 6:30p.m. on that fateful day, warning them that the armed group was on the way to Dapchi. According to the report, the first call was made to the Nigeria Army Command in Geidam, 54km from Dapchi, informing them that Boko Haram fighters had been seen at Futchimiram heading to Gumsa, a village about 30km from Dapchi. However, the evidence documented by the group shows that the military did nothing to engage with Boko Haram and ensure the protection of civilians.

“The sighting of an armed convoy at Futchimiram immediately sparked several phone calls to alert authorities. Sources who informed the military commander in Geidam at 2p.m. report that he responded to them by saying he was aware of the situation and was monitoring it.

“At about 3p.m., the convoy arrived in Gumsa, where they remained till 5p.m. People in Gumsa called Dapchi villagers to warn them that Boko Haram fighters were on their way. One villager who received such a call said he informed a police sergeant who promised to notify the Dapchi Division Police Officer (DPO).

“At about 6:30p.m., when residents were heading to the mosque for evening prayers, Boko Haram members entered Dapchi. Witnesses said Boko Haram fighters asked for directions to the military post, the local government office and the girls’ school,” the report said. An eyewitness told Amnesty International that approximately 50 Boko Haram fighters arrived in Dapchi in a convoy of nine vehicles with Arabic inscriptions on them.

The vehicles included seven Land Cruiser trucks, one Hilux and a Canter truck. A police source in Dapchi also told Amnesty International that on sighting them, police officers fled because they feared that the Boko Haram fighters would overpower them. According to victims and eyewitnesses interviewed by Amnesty, Boko Haram left Gumsa for Dapchi at about 5p.m., arriving at about 6:30p.m.

“They left Dapchi at about 7:30p.m. in the direction of Gumsa, where villagers say they arrived at about 9p.m. During the attack, army officials both in Geidam and Damaturu were again alerted. The military only arrived in Dapchi shortly after Boko Haram left. Villagers in Dapchi and Gumsa said a military jet arrived about one hour after Boko Haram left Dapchi,” said the report.

The global human rights watchdog lamented that in spite of the several distress calls, the Nigerian military neither took effective measures to stop the abduction nor made serious efforts to rescue the girls after they were taken by Boko Haram fighters.

The Defence Headquarters, however, denied that it did nothing to prevent the abduction despite several warnings. Acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig.-Gen. John Agim, told New Telegraph that there is no truth in the position of Amnesty International.

“Warning from who? Amnesty? Which of the military did they say they informed? Is it the defence headquarters or the task force? “There is nothing like that, and I think what they (Amnesty International) are doing is very unfair. “The military could not have been informed and they did nothing. It is not true.

Then outside that, all the service chiefs were all in the North-East,” Agim told New Telegraph last night. Director, Amnesty International in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said the Nigerian authorities have failed in their duty to protect civilians, just as they did in Chibok four years ago. Ojigho, who described the inaction as “inexcusable security lapses”, said the Nigerian authorities must investigate the incident in order to unravel why the abduction took place without any tangible attempt to prevent it. “Despite being repeatedly told that Boko Haram fighters were heading to Dapchi, it appears that the police and military did nothing to avert the abduction.

The authorities appear to have learned nothing from the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State in 2014 and failed to ensure protection for civilians in North-East Nigeria, specifically girls’ schools. “Evidence available to Amnesty International suggests that there are insufficient troops deployed in the area, and that an absence of patrols and the failure to respond to warnings and engage with Boko Haram contributed to this tragedy. The government’s failure in this incident must be investigated and the findings made public and it is absolutely crucial that any investigation focuses on the root causes,” said Ojigho.

Apparently alleging complicity on the part of the Nigerian troops, Amnesty said the military withdrew troops from Dapchi in January, leaving the town vulnerable to attacks. According to the report, the unexplained withdrawal of troops from Dapchi meant that the closest security personnel were based one hour’s drive from the town. Ojigho said the actions and inactions of Nigerian troops must not only be subjected to probe, but the Federal Government must use all lawful means at its disposal to ensure that these girls were rescued and reunited with their families.

The parents of the abducted girls lamented the incident. One parent told Amnesty International: “That night we heard their voices when they were being taken, but there was nothing we could do. Everyone was scared. Boko Haram did not stay in the town for more than one hour.” Another parent described how the girls’ relatives were not given any information until the following day, and had to wait outside the school to find out if their loved ones were safe. He said: “Many parents were hopeful that their daughters were inside. We stood there from morning till about 5p.m., when they let the students out.

It was at that point it dawned on me that my daughter was among those abducted.” Another parent whose daughters returned said: “Nobody told parents officially that their daughters were taken. While I was glad seeing my daughters, I felt bad for other parents whose daughters could not be found.”

In response to the Chibok abduction, the Federal Government, under President Goodluck Jonathan, launched the Safe Schools Initiative which was meant to improve security around schools. The programme is currently under the control of the Presidential Committee on the North- East Initiative, but there seems to be no framework in place to prevent further abductions and it appears that the Nigerian military is unable to protect these schools from attack.

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