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Nigeria: Security forces failed to act on warnings about Boko Haram attack hours before abduction of schoolgirls

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Nigerian Army used to illustrate the story

Nigerian security forces failed to act on advance warnings that a convoy of Boko Haram fighters were heading towards a town where they abducted 110 schoolgirls last month, an investigation by Amnesty International has revealed.

The military failed to respond while Boko Haram conducted an armed raid on the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe state on 19 February in an assault with chilling echoes of the infamous Chibok girls’ abduction of 2014.

“The Nigerian authorities must investigate the inexcusable security lapses that allowed this abduction to take place without any tangible attempt to prevent it,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director.

“As an even greater priority, the government must use all lawful means at its disposal to ensure that these girls are rescued.

“The authorities appear to have learned nothing from the abduction of 274 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state in 2014 and failed to ensure protection for civilians in northeast Nigeria, specifically girls’ schools.”

In response to the Chibok abduction, the Safe Schools Initiative – which is currently coordinated by the Presidential Committee on the North-East Initiative – was launched to improve security around schools. However, no framework seems to be in place to prevent further abductions and it appears that the Nigerian military is unable to protect schools from attack.

“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,” said Osai Ojigho.

“The Nigerian authorities 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 gathered testimonies from multiple credible sources showing that the Nigerian army and police received multiple calls up to four hours before the raid on Dapchi, but did not take effective measures to stop the abduction or rescue the girls after they were taken by Boko Haram fighters.

The military withdrew troops from the area in January, meaning the closest personnel were based one hour’s drive from Dapchi.

Between 2pm and 6.30pm on 19 February, security forces received at least five calls warning them that the armed group was on the way to Dapchi.

The first call was made to the 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 Amnesty International shows that the military did nothing to engage with Boko Haram and ensure the protection of civilians.

Commander ‘aware of Boko Haram movement’ four hours before abduction

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 2pm report that he responded to them by saying he was aware of the situation and was monitoring it.

At around 3pm, the convoy arrived in Gumsa, where they remained till 5pm. 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 around 6:30pm, 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.

A police source in Dapchi told Amnesty International that officers fled because they feared that the Boko Haram fighters would overpower them.

Government must investigate root causes of failure to respond

A source based in northeast Nigeria told Amnesty International: “All the military needed to do was send troops towards Gumsa from Geidam or Babban Gida, while telling its troops in Damasak, Kareto, Gubio and Magumeri to be on the lookout or be on patrol.”

A review of the Nigerian army’s actions by Amnesty International’s crisis advisor for military operations also concluded that the military’s response was woefully inadequate. The review took into consideration the locations of the soldiers and the time it would take to get to Dapchi, as well as the route taken by Boko Haram.

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According to victims and eyewitnesses interviewed by Amnesty International, Boko Haram left Gumsa for Dapchi at around 5:00pm, arriving at around 6:30pm. They left Dapchi at around 7:30pm in the direction of Gumsa, where villagers say they arrived at around 9:00pm.

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.

Six days after the abduction, on 25 February, a security meeting was held at the governor’s office in the state capital Damaturu attended by state and federal government officials, security chiefs, the military officials operating in the area and representatives from the school and parents. The authorities were aware that the military was notified at least four hours before the attack that suspected Boko Haram fighters were heading to Gumsa. No one appears to have asked why the military did not respond adequately or why there were not enough troops.

President Muhammadu Buhari subsequently ordered an investigation into the response to the abduction.

“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 Osai Ojigho.

“Why were insufficient troops available? Why was it decided to withdraw troops? What measures has the government taken to protect schools in northeast Nigeria? And what procedures are supposed to be followed in response to an attempted abduction?”

Families of abducted girls left without any information

The 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. But the girls did not return home, and on 22 February the state government confirmed the abductions.

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.

“Many parents were hopeful that their daughters were inside. We stood there from morning till around 5pm in the evening, when they let the students out. It was at that point it dawned on me that my daughter was among those abducted,” he said.

Another parent whose daughter 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.”

No lessons learned from 2014 Chibok abduction

The response to this abduction has chilling similarities to the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state in April 2014.

On that occasion, 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, the abduction was followed by a climate of confusion and suspicion, which appeared to slow down the Nigerian authorities’ efforts to locate and free the abducted girls.

After the Chibok abduction, the military initially said that almost all the abducted girls had been rescued, but later had to retract that statement.

A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from…A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from a video of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location. Boko Haram released a new video on claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, alleging they had converted to Islam and would not be released until all militant prisoners were freed. A total of 276 girls were abducted on April 14 from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. Some 223 are still missing. AFP PHOTO / BOKO HARAM
RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO / BOKO HARAM” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTSHO/AFP/Getty Images

The authorities under President Jonathan originally investigated Boko Haram’s responsibility for the Chibok abductions but never made the report public. In January 2016, President Buhari ordered another investigation into the government’s response to the Chibok abduction. This report was also never made public.

“Regrettably, 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 – and the same result for another hundred girls and their families,” said Osai Ojigho.

“All authorities must now work together to ensure the girls are brought home safely and this never happens again. This abduction is a war crime and those responsible must be brought to justice. As a first step, the two reports into the Chibok abductions should be made public.”

Amnesty International is calling on Boko Haram to immediately release the girls and all others in its captivity.

Background

A team of Amnesty International researchers visited Dapchi and interviewed 23 people, including girls who escaped, parents of the abducted girls, local officials and eyewitnesses, to document this abduction. They also interviewed three security officials.

The sources independently verified a list of Nigerian security officials who were alerted on 19 February, before and during the raid on the Government Girls Science and Technical College. They have been kept anonymous for their safety.

The sources and eyewitnesses in Dapchi confirmed that approximately 50 Boko Haram fighters arrived in Dapchi in a convoy of nine vehicles with Arabic inscriptions on them, seven Landcruiser trucks, one Hilux and a Canter truck.

News

Satellite Times condemn the assassination of investigative journalist

-calls on journalists in Nigeria to wear black

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Ahmed Hussein-Suale, the Tiger Eye the investigative journalist who was killed by gunmen [Photo credit: Quartz Africa]
Ahmed Hussein-Suale, the Tiger Eye investigative journalist who was killed by gunmen [Photo credit: Quartz Africa]

Nigeria’s frontline investigative newspaper, Satellite Times, has condemned in strong terms the assassination in Ghana of investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale.

Ahmed was killed in a hail of bullets from gunmen on motorbike who aimed at his chest and neck, eventually speeding off without taking any valuables from his car which they had trailed till the attack. The slain journalist was one of the reporters at Tiger Eye, an investigative reporting project founded by ace Ghanaian journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas.

Reacting to the murder, Satellite Times’ publisher and multiple award-winning investigative journalist, Emmanuel Mayah, said in a statement that the shooting dead of Ahmed Hussein-Suale is one gruesome attack too many on African journalists doing the difficult work of ridding the continent of corruption, bad governance and political capture.

In the press statement Mayah said:

“I am reeling in shock as I write this. What happened in Ghana is too close to home that it is producing a petrifying aftershock here in Nigeria. Over the years I have received with angst news of killings of journalists across the world but none was as jolting as the slaying of Ahmed Hussein-Suale; maybe because I knew him in person.

“We at Satellite Times newsroom, join our colleagues in the global investigative journalism community in condemning the cowardly killing of this young journalist in Ghana. To Anas: we stand by you and share in your grief in this dark moment. To Ahmed’s family: the pain never goes away. To the government of Ghana we say: Journalists are not public enemy, rather they are protectors of the public interest; the defenders of the social contract between the citizens and the state.

We ask the government of Ghana and indeed those of the other member states of the African Union to recall Article 13 of the United Nations Convention against corruption, which provides that each state party shall take measures to protect “the freedom to seek, receive, publish and disseminate information concerning corruption”. In the spirit of this statute, we call on the government of Ghana to fish out and bring to justice the killers of Ahmed; be they in government or friends of the government.

“Death is everyone’s destiny but death for the investigative journalist is a choice. Journalists fought for the independence of nations of Africa. They fought against colonialism, apartheid, military dictatorship and now even in a democracy, they are fighting against bad governance, human rights violations and official brigandage, the last obstacles to the total emancipation of the African continent.

“We ask the African community that we serve to see investigative journalists as freedom fighters in the mould of Steve Biko, Martin Luther King, Patrice Mulumba, Thomas Sankara, Che Guevera, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Ken Saro-Wiwa; and of course, Dele Giwa, Norbert Zongo and Anna Politkovskaya.

“Journalists in Satellite Times newsroom will begin today (Friday) to wear black for seven days as we mourn our departed colleague in Ghana.”

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Human Rights

Woman slashes 11-year-old housemaid with kitchen knife

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Woman slashes 11-year-old housemaid with kitchen knife

A young girl only identified as Victoria is currently traumatized and in agonizing pain after she was severely inflicted with knife-injuries by her madam (identified as mummy Pemisire), for allegedly stealing milk.

The attention of this reporter was drawn to this case when a Twitter user, Adex Adebukola Crowngold (@AdexAdebukola) shared a gruesome photo of the child with the caption;

“My attention has just been called to this. The madam did this to her housemaid because she was accused of stealing milk.

“She’s in the hospital and the woman arrested. But justice must prevail. Location is at Ibadan.”

Eyewitness account

Speaking to SATELLITE TIMES newspaper, an eyewitness who begged to remain unnamed, gave an account as it happened on Friday, January 11, in Sanyo area, Ibadan.

“The girl ran out of their apartment with blood stains all over her and madam was still chasing her. The little girl said she tore her body with a knife.”

The 11-year-old victim was eventually rescued by concerned neighbours in Sanyo area, and taken to a nurse for first aid treatment before the Police came to get her the next morning.

When asked about the girl’s current condition and who was responsible for her hospital bill, the eyewitness said “I should think she is fine. I don’t know who is handling her bills. The Police took her to Montana hospital, Challenge area in Ibadan.”

Her madam, Pemisire, was however arrested same night of the incident by the Police and taken to a station in Sanyo, Ibadan.

“The madam should still be in the Police custody. That is if they haven’t released her yet, you know Nigerian Police. She hasn’t returned home since that night,” the witness added.

Efforts to reach the Oyo State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ajisebutu Adekunle via telephone were initially unsuccessful but he later responded with a text saying “the case is currently under investigation. The CP, Abiodun Odude, has directed that the case should be transferred to the state CIID Iyaganku immediately for discreet investigation and prosecution.”

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Inspector General dismisses 160 Policemen for fleeing Boko Haram posting

-Dismissal letter signed on Boxing Day

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A few hours after the force PRO, Jimoh Moshood, vigorously denied that no police officer had absconded from the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), following controversial posting of scores of Mobile Policemen to Boko Haram territories, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, signed a letter ordering the dismissal of over 160 Policemen for going AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave).

The dismissal letter with reference number CH: 6350/DOPS/PMF/FHQ/ABJ/VOL4/25 and exclusively obtained by SATELLITE TIMES revealed that the officers were dismissed on orders of the Police IG. According to the letter, all affected personnel are to be ejected from the Barracks if occupying any and also to ensure stoppage of salaries.

The over 160 officers were amongst the 2000 policemen recently drafted by the Police IG to help support the Nigerian Army in the fight against insurgency in Nigeria’s war-torn North-east region.

The Nigerian Army on Wednesday however contradicted the Nigerian Police Force who earlier denied that no officer absconded as earlier reported.

Though the Nigerian Army claimed that the fleeing officers were amongst ‘the unruly’ ones who the Special Forces School at Buni-Yudi, some of them were however caught in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.

Coordinator Nigeria Police Force for Operation Lafiya-Dole (NPFOLD), A. S. Ishaq, in an interview with PRNigeria said “there was nothing like policemen absconding, but just a case of some recalcitrant personnel leaving their training base for a reason which was not cogent”.

“What happened was that some of the police officers insisted on going for the Christmas holiday. But in line with standard military operations, there was no way officers undergoing special training on a combat-operation, could leave their base when the training exercise has not rounded up.

“So, we refused to grant them permission. However, the unruly ones among them left our Special Forces School at Buni-Yudi, venue of the training. But thank God, the unruly personnel were tracked at Damaturu, the state’s capital. Right now, some of them have been brought back to the School.”

A brother to one of the fleeing mobile policemen told Satellite Times what his brother told him from hiding: When it is time for special posting that will be beneficial they select their own people but when it comes to danger they post people from a different part of the country.”
The runaway police officer added: “All you need to do is to look at the list and you will see that over 90 percent of us are Christians and also from the south.”

With varying discrepancies from both the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force, inside sources told SATELLITE TIMES that the officers fled after they were deployed to Boko Haram territories.

Below is the dismissal letter obtained by this newspaper.

 

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