â€¢ Amnesty: Security forces ignored distress calls on Dapchi girlsâ€™ abduction
Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Paul Obi in Abuja with agency report
The Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, has ordered the immediate withdrawal of all policemen attached to very important persons (VIPs), political and public office holders in the country.
He has also deployed no fewer than 2,000 armed policemen in schools in North-eastern Nigeria as part of the measures to enhance protection in public schools in the region where Boko Haram terrorists regularly abduct men, women and children for ransom or indoctrination into the Islamist sect.
Idris gave the order on the withdrawal of police personnel from VIPs and politicians, among others, at the monthly meeting with Commissioners of Police and above, held Monday in Abuja.
â€œA directive for the withdrawal of all police officers deployed to VIPs, political and public office holders, with immediate effect, is hereby given,â€ he said.
He said the order became expedient in view of the current security challenges in the country, adding that it was aimed at enhancing effective and efficient policing in the country.
Idris added that the directive included business entrepreneurs, multinational companies as well as corporate individuals.
In this regard, the police boss said a memo would be forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He added that the approval would also serve as a guideline or template for the deployment of officers to VIPs, political and public office holders.
Idris said a task force had been constituted at the Force Headquarters to ensure compliance with the directive while command commissioners would replicate same at their various commands.
He pointed out that organisations and individuals that require the services of the police and are found worthy would be considered by the Special Protection Unit (SPU) of the police force.
Idris explained that this would be based on an application for re-validation through the state Commissioners of Police where they are resident.
â€œI am charging the Commissioners of Police with the responsibility of supervising such official deployment and thereby holding them accountable,â€ he said.
On the illegal use of sirens and spy number plates, Idris directed all holders to return them to the Force Transport Officer (FTO) in Abuja and to apply for re-validation.
He said a task force would be formed at the command levels by state Commissioners of Police to ensure compliance.
Idris said when formed, the list of members of the task force would be forwarded to the DIG Operations on March 31.
He noted that criminals were taking advantage of the situation to perpetrate heinous crimes across the country.
The police boss also warned individuals covering their vehicle number plates and using sirens illegally to desist forthwith.
Idris also decorated some newly promoted senior police officers with their new ranks.
The officers include AIG Danjuma Ibrahim, AIG Istifanus Shettima, AIG Jimoh Ozi-Obeh, CP Dasuki Galadanchi, CP Bello Yahaya, CP Mukaddas Garba, and CP Fave Semali, among others.
The Police Service Commission (PSC) on March 6 had approved the promotion of 414 senior police officers.
2,000 Policemen for Nâ€™East Schools
The police also announced Monday that at least 2,000 armed policemen had been deployed in schools in North-eastern Nigeria as part of the measures to enhance protection in public schools in the region.
Boko Haram, in 2014, kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, and more recently, 110 girls from another school in Dapchi, Yobe State.
Speaking on the deployment, a senior police officer said the policemen will be deployed in more than 300 schools in Yobe, Adamawa and Borno States to enhance security in the schools.
The senior officer also said Idris would embark on appraisal visits in the North-east where he would visit the schools and assess the performance of the policemen.
The source said Idris would also visit the Dapchi community in Yobe State to commiserate with the families of the 110 abducted girls.
The IG would also have meetings with various stakeholders engaged in the fight against Boko Haram, with a view to supporting them.
The senior officer, who was quoted by PRNigeria, a public relations firm that advises government establishments, said Idris would also interact with top government officials, community leaders and traditional rulers as part of his efforts to strengthen the synergy in the campaign against Boko Haram.
Despite deploying his Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) to relocate to Maiduguri to complement the military efforts in rescuing the Dapchi schoolgirls from Boko Haram, the source said that the IG, who had just returned from a medical trip, was of the view that it was necessary to go to the North-east and see things for himself.
â€œI want to reassure Nigerians that the IG is committed to his primary mandate of protecting lives and property in all parts of the country,â€ the police source said.
Unlike the IG, the Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mr. Abdullahi Gana, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. Muhammad Babandede, and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), Mr. Jaafaru Ahmed, have all visited the North-east since the abduction of the Dapchi schoolgirls.
The IG has aslo come under attack from many Nigerians who have criticised him for not relocating to crises-prone areas as directed by the president.
But even as the IG sets out for the North-east, the Minister of Defence Monday debunked a media report that he gave a timeline of two weeks for the rescue of the Dapchi schoolgirls.
A statement by the ministerâ€™s spokesman, Colonel Tukur Gusau, said that at no time did the minister say such a thing when he appeared on a Channels Television programme, Dateline Abuja, at the weekend.
According to the statement, â€œThe attention of the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali has been drawn to a news item currently circulating on some news media platforms quoting him as saying on Dateline Abuja, a Channels Television interview programme which was aired at the weekend, that the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls will regain their freedom in two weeks.
â€œIt has therefore become necessary to put the ministerâ€™s comment on the issue in proper context, in view of the expected public interest and possible mischief that may be created in certain partisan quarters.
â€œIt should be stated that when he was asked to give a timeline for the girlsâ€™ rescue, the minister emphasised that government had intensified efforts and deployed considerable manpower sufficient enough to raise hopes but being a purely operational matter, it would be absolutely unfeasible and impracticable to give a specific timeline for the eventual freedom of the abducted girls.
â€œThe minister had said that â€˜it can be earlier, maybe a week, it can be two weeks, but we are on it, and Iâ€™m telling you with all sense of sincerity that we are closing in on themâ€™.
â€œThe minister was mindful of the prevailing high public anxiety over the girlsâ€™ safety so he was very careful in answering the interviewerâ€™s question about giving a specific timeline because of the delicate nature of the issue.
â€œThe timeline he talked about was strictly an operational timeline which was to determine the progress of the ongoing search by the defence forces but definitely not a timeline for the girlsâ€™ freedom because of the delicate emotional fallout it could have on the girlsâ€™ parents and loved ones.â€
Also speaking to THISDAY on the issue Monday, Dan-Ali assured Nigerians that the federal government was doing everything necessary to secure the release of the girls soon.
AI: Army, Police Were Unresponsive
Meanwhile, Amnesty International, in a statement Monday, yet again indicted the security forces in the country, saying officers of the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police failed to act on advance warnings that a convoy of Boko Haram fighters was heading towards Dapchi where the girls were taken from their school on February 9.
Accordingly, Amnesty called on the president to investigate the failure of the security forces to respond while Boko Haram fighters conducted an armed raid on Government Girlsâ€™ Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State.
In the statement issued by Amnestyâ€™s Country Director, Ms. Osai Ojigho, the human rights body described the armed raid by Boko Haram on Dapchi as the â€œchilling echoes of the infamous Chibok girlsâ€™ abduction of 2014â€.
Amnesty said it sponsored a team of researchers that visited Dapchi and interviewed 23 persons, including the girls who escaped, parents of the abducted girls, local officials and eyewitnesses to document the abduction.
It added that three security officials were interviewed and each of the sources independently verified a list of Nigerian security officials who were alerted on February 19 before and during the raid on the school, adding that they have been kept anonymous for their safety.
Contingent on these findings, Amnesty said the Nigerian authorities â€œmust investigate the inexcusable security lapses that allowed this abduction to take place without any tangible attempt to prevent itâ€.
As a greater priority, the international human rights body said the federal government must use all lawful means at its disposal to ensure that the girls are rescued.
â€œThe 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 girlsâ€™ schools.
â€œEvidence available 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 security forces have failed in their duty to protect civilians, just as they did in Chibok four years ago. 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, Amnesty International stated.
The body further lamented that families of the abducted girls were left without any information. â€œThe abduction was followed by confusion. Initially, the authorities denied any girls were abducted. Then, the Yobe state authorities stated that the military had rescued the girls.
â€œBut the girls did not return home. On February 22, the state government confirmed the abductions. â€˜That night we heard their voices when they were being taken,â€™ the state government said, â€˜but there was nothing we could do. Everyone was scared. Boko Haram did not stay in the town for more than one hourâ€™,â€ the body added.
Amnesty also recounted the account of one of the parents, who described how the girlsâ€™ 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.
â€œMany parents were hopeful that their daughters were inside. â€˜We stood there from morning till around 5.00 p.m., when they let the students out. It was at that point it dawned on me that my daughter was among those abducted,â€™ one parent informed us,â€ said Amnesty.
Another parent was quoted in the statement as saying: â€œNobody 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.
â€œResponse to this abduction has chilling similarities to the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State in April 2014.â€
On that occasion, according to Amnesty, the military also had four hours advance warning but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, with most military personnel withdrawn shortly before the abduction.
Similarly, it said the abduction was followed by a climate of confusion and suspicion, which appeared â€œto slow down the authoritiesâ€™ efforts to locate and free the abducted girlsâ€.
â€œAfter the Chibok abduction, the military initially said that almost all the abducted girls had been rescued, but later had to retract that statement.
â€œThe authorities under President Jonathan originally investigated Boko Haramâ€™s responsibility for the Chibok abductions but never made the report public. In January 2016, President Buhari ordered another investigation into the governmentâ€™s response to the Chibok abduction. This report was also never made public.
â€œRegrettably, no lessons appear to have been learned from the terrible events at Chibok four years ago. What happened in Dapchi is almost a carbon copy of what happened in Chibok, with the security forces failing to respond to warnings â€“ and the same result for another hundred girls and their families,â€ the human rights body noted.
It said all authorities should now work together to ensure the girls are brought home safely and this never happens again, adding that the Dapchi abduction was a â€œwar crime and those responsible must be brought to justiceâ€.
As a first step, however, it said the two reports into the Chibok abductions should be made public.