Had the federal government recognised the dire security situation in the country, it would not have been caught napping by the abduction of 110 students of the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe, writes Tobi Soniyi
On February 19th, Nigerians woke up to the heart wrenching news that 110 students of the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, had been kidnapped. It was unbelievable, but it was true.
How could this happen when the country is still battling to secure the release of 270 Chibok Secondary School girls kidnapped in 2014 by Boko Haram.
CNN News anchor, Isha Sesay’s reaction to the news said it all. She said: “#Nigeria’s President #Buhari calls abduction of #DapchiGirls ’a national disaster.’ That’s an understatement – it’s a national disgrace. More girls taken – again??#Yobe #ChibokGirls.”
For a government that campaigned and won election based on promises to tackle insecurity, rescue the Chibok girls and fight corruption among others, the invasion of Dapchi and the abduction of those girls were a major blow. It is a blow from which the government will find it difficult to recover from.
No Lessons Learnt from Chibok
According to Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, four years after the massacre of fifty-nine male students at Buni Yadi and as we approach the fourth year in captivity of the remaining 112 Chibok schoolgirls, it is shocking that we have not learnt lessons on how to make our schools safe.
> There are several lessons for the country from the abduction of the Dapchi girls. One of such lessons is that as a country we did not learn any lesson from the 2014 abduction of the Chibok girls.
> To begin with, the immediate response to the abduction was awful. Government initially claimed that no girls were kidnapped. Latter it said all the girls had been rescued but the parents faulted that claim. Eventually, government rose to the challenge and admitted that 110 girls had been abducted and that none of them had been rescued.
> “What happened subsequently was shameful,” said Dr Ibrahim.
> The situation could have been better handled. Nevertheless, the handling was an improvement on what transpired in 2014 when the Chibok girls were kidnapped.
> If however, it is true that parents of the kidnapped girls were detained and harassed for saying that none of the kidnapped students had been rescued, that would amount to injustice.
Conspiracy Theory Dismantled
After the Chibok girls were kidnapped, a conspiracy theory emerged that the story was a ruse and that no kidnapping had taken place. Many asked how more than two hundred girls could be kidnapped so easily. Others who admitted that the abduction took place said it was micromanaged. Now that Dapchi had happened, those who said it was impossible to kidnap so many girls should not have difficulty understanding how it can happen. But this is Nigeria, another conspiracy theory may emerge soon.
> If there is anyone who understands how painful it is to play politics with the lives of kidnapped school children, it is no other person other than the governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima.
While on a sympathy visit to Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe in Damaturu over the abduction, Shettima, who is also chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum, said the unfortunate incident in Dapchi reminded him of conspiracy theories regarding the Chibok abduction. He advised politicians to learn a lesson on the need to separate politics from issues of security.
> He said: “Your Excellency, I have been in your shoes since 2014 when schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok. I know exactly how you feel. When our daughters were abducted in Chibok, only God understood how I felt and I can imagine how you also feel, and the trauma you are going through.
> “The parents of these girls would always look up to you with hope in the midst of agony. I know you are pained but I also believe that insha Allah, these girls will be rescued very soon.
“I think the difference between the Chibok incident and this one, is that the federal government didn’t react in denial, doubt or formed a conspiracy theory. The federal government assumed responsibility which we hope will lead to rescue of the schoolgirls. When schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok, some people said there was no abduction because Borno was in the opposition. “Those who admitted there was abduction came up with a conspiracy theory that the APC leaders perpetuated it in order to win the 2015 elections. Now, this abduction took place in an APC-controlled State under an APC-led federal government.
> “What this reminds us, in a very painful way, I should add, is that as political actors, we should learn to separate politics from issues of security. Human lives are very precious in the sight of Allah.”
Nobody Takes Responsibility
There has been a trend in this government and that is nobody takes responsibility when things go wrong. Is it not a shame that both the police and the army are blaming each other for the security lapse that allowed the abduction to happen so easily?
> Lapses happen because nobody is held accountable. This is a trend in this government. When the media cry out that those given the responsibility to secure the country are incompetent, the Presidency takes offence. The Presidency could have saved itself the embarrassment caused by the Dapchi’s kidnapping if only it had listened to the voice of reason. The inability of President Muhammadu Buhari to take the bull by the horn and appoint the right leadership to lead security institutions will continue to haunt him. As it is, he is in for more embarrassment.
Failure of Intelligence
In any war, intelligence is key to winning. It is even more important in asymmetric warfare.
A retired colonel, Mr Hassan Stan-Labo blamed the Dapchi kidnapping on what he described as a failure of intelligence not just on the part of the security agencies but of citizens participation.
He said terrorism is intelligence driven. “It is expensive and it calls for greater citizens participation”, he added.
According to him, the citizens must have seen something including he vehicles used. Their appearance should have attracted the attention of the civil populace.
He said: “This could have been avoided. I don’t like playing the blame games. It could have been done if we have done the following: we have created a centre for protection of national infrastructures, put in place an urban security strategy. It considers the security requirements for each sector such as education, hospital and so on; and adoption of preventive terrorism initiatives.
“We have a manpower deficit. I am surprised government has not taken measures to recruit people given the level of our unemployment.
“By now we should have a very large army given the mutilplicty of crises we have in this country.”
Could Ransom Payment Be Fuelling Abduction?
Government has never admitted paying ransom to secure the release of some of the Chibok girls. But there had been reports that ransoms were paid. What is certain is that Boko Haram could not have released the Chibok girls for free.
> Stan-Labo suspected the insurgents want more ransoms. He said: “At the end of the day, it will boil down to ransoms. If we are serious, we will get the girls. Boko Haram are factionalized. It appears that another faction wants its own share of ransoms.”
> In the light of this, government should re-examine its strategy in the fight against the insurgents.
Boko Haram might have chosen to cary out the latest abduction to prove that it had not been defeated yet. If that is the case, government should also step back from its position that it had defeated the insurgents. This leads to the next lesson, should we believe the government’s claim that the insurgents had been defeated?
Has Boko Haram Been Defeated?
Captain Bish Johnson a retired United States of America’s army officer has rightly observed thus: “The incident that happened on Monday (Dapchi kidnapping) shows that Boko Haram have not been defeated.
“For Boko Haram to pull off this, it means that they have not been decimated. We should not underestimate them. They are still very potent. If we don’t recognize that fact before Monday, then we should do after Monday.”
That is something the federal movement does not want to hear. Everyday, the government keeps telling Nigerians that Boko Haram had been defeated. The government is already behaving in such a way that the insurgents had been defeated. But the fact that they could come to Yobe and take away 110 school children without security agents stopping them could only mean one thing: the insurgents remain very potent. It is also time we changed our approach to the fight against terrorism.
Porous Borders to Blame
There is a glaring factor which the government has conveniently overlooked.
Captain Johnson clearly understood the issue when he said: “We have porous borders. People come in we don’t know who they are. We have to remove sentiment, religion, politics and ethnicity to address security issues.”
Whether the government admits it or not, our inability to protect our borders is a challenge. Many of the hedsmen, militants and gunmen terrorising Nigeria come in and go out so easily. But because of some sentimental issues, we are unable to stop them. Nigeria will remain unsafe as long as we are unable to police our borders. Period.
To resuce the kidnapped girls, Captain Johnson said: “If we work with our Neighbours they could be found. They could not have gone beyond Niger. We need to seek help from our neighbour. Nigerian government will have take the lead.”
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai
We should learn to separate politics from issues of security. Human lives are very precious.