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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
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.

Amnesty International logo

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.

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$8.1 billion MTN Sanction: Secret plans to reduce fine to $800 million

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While the country is still outraged over the unlawful repatriation of $14 billion dollars by South African telecoms giant, MTN, development unfolding has revealed that there are behind the scenes arrangements to slash a fine placed on its Nigerian subsidiary from $8.1 billion to $800 million.

The new report drew the attention of the Nigerian Senate who resolved to seek explanations on the planned reduction by the federal government from a mammoth $8.1 billion to the new figures.

Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, Senate Committee Chairman on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, while addressing journalists on Tuesday said it became pertinent for the Senate to wade into the ‘back door’ arrangement between MTN and the Nigerian government.

“It was gathered that the federal government, working through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, may have concluded arrangements to cut the $8.1 billion fine to $800 million through the back door. The Senate said it was interested in knowing the percentage of reduction from $8.1 billion to $800,” he was quoted as saying, by Vanguard.

Mr. Ibrahim also called for detailed report to enable the Senate fully understand what transpired between MTN and CBN that led to the sanction.

The CBN ordered MTN to refund the $8.1 billion to its coffers as sanctions for repatriating $14 billion using fraudulent Certificates of Capital Imports (CCIs). For their roles in the illicit transfer, MTN’s bankers were sanctioned by CBN with Standard Chartered attracting a fine of N2.4 billion, Stanbic IBTC N1.8 billion, Citibank N1.2 billion and Diamond Bank N250 million respectively.

While a Lagos court adjourned the hearing on the $8.1 billion dispute between Nigeria’s apex bank and MTN until December 4, THISDAY newspaper reports that both parties have reached a tentative agreement on the fines imposed on the Nigerian subsidiary.

Concerned about the negative impact the refund would have on the South African economy, MTN Group CEO and President, Mr. Rob Shuter, was in Abuja to discuss the risks the sledgehammer hit on South Africa’s cash cow would cause the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

In February 2018, SATELLITE TIMES brought to public attention secret documents of MTN’s financial dealings found so outrageous it was tagged a national security issue, forcing the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to request the Department of Security Services (DSS) to step in.

In July, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a disguised visit to Nigeria however came with dual interests in MTN.

As President of South Africa, his intervention was needed to save one of South Africa’s biggest cash cows in foreign land. The other is that as a businessman, Ramaphosa has substantial interest in MTN.

In September, SATELLITE TIMES also exclusively reported how there were plans by some ultra-powerful lobbyists recruited from within and outside Nigeria, and from a few foreign governments including those of South Africa, UK and The United Arab Emirate (UAE) to stop the fine that threatened the existence of MTN’s operation in Nigeria.

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Corruption: Emir Sanusi Lamido was under secret probe by govt. – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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Emir Sanusi
Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido [Photo Credit: Guardian Nigeria]

Almost all through his 5-year tenure as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido did his best to uphold a squeaky-clean image as a public servant. He even put on a new toga, assuming the role of the country’s anti-corruption czar, speaking out against public and private sector corruption as well as supporting policies towards strengthening best practices.

 A startling revelation however, in a new book, paints a diametrically-opposing picture of Sanusi with strong suggestions of sleaze and brigandage at the apex bank where he held sway from 2009 to 2014.

The level of corruption was ostensibly on a large scale; so much so that the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), a financial oversight body located in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment initiated a probe.

The book, released 2018 and titled “Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines,” was written by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a World Bank economist who herself was a cabinet insider at the time Sanusi was the CBN governor.

Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines

Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines

 Ngozi was Finance Minister, first in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and returned to serve a second time in the same position but with an expanded portfolio as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

For political expediency and also not to send the wrong signal to international investors, the Jonathan administration chose to keep the probe quiet.According to Ngozi, the President said “if the situation became public, it could reflect badly on the Central Bank Governor.”

While the outcome of the probe was being given official consideration at the highest level, Sanusi sprung a surprise. He wrote a letter on September 2013 to President Jonathan, alerting him that there was $49.8 billion missing from the country’s oil accounts between January 2012 and July 2013.

The new development spurred efforts towards reconciling the accounts by a joint task force comprising the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, The Finance Ministry and the CBN; but was hit by a major setback when Ngozi got a call from a Financial Times of London African correspondent, William Walis, of a leaked letter to the President (Jonathan) which alleged that $50 billion was missing from the country’s oil accounts.

File Photo: Former President Goodluck Jonathan [Photo credit: Daily Post]

File Photo: Former President Goodluck Jonathan [Photo credit: Daily Post]

Before she could act accordingly, the story of the alleged missing funds had spread like wildfire, leading to widespread outrage all over the country.

In December 2013, reports by the task force were ready and after professional consideration, the parties involved agreed that the unaccounted funds were between the ranges of $10.8 billion to $12 billion.

Though this reconciliation had been made, the country was already thrown in an uproar over the initial report of the missing $50 billion which led the National Assembly to call for a hearing.

To water down the attendant reactions that embraced the initial report, a press conference was organized where Sanusi admitted that his staff had erroneously tampered with the figures but after proper investigations by the task force, the CBN came to a resolution that only about $12 billion of the funds were unaccounted for.

Efforts to exonerate all wrongdoings by the parties involved were short-lived a day after the press conference following a television advert by the NNPC distancing itself from the controversy which further complicated the already dicey situation.

In February 2014 during their appearance before the Senate ad-hoc committee chaired by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Sanusi in his defense when asked to speak, made a surprise u-turn and countered the initially agreed figure of $12 billion, Ngozi said.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala [Photo Credit: Guardian Nigeria]

In his defense, Sanusi said that while the unaccounted funds were not $50 billion, he argued that the money could not have been $12 billion either, tendering new exhibits alleging the figures to be $20 billion.

Sanusi fingered a subsidiary of the NNPC, the Nigeria Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC), for the non-disbursement of $6 billion to the Federal Account.

Thrown off balance by the new revelations, Ngozi called for an independent forensic audit, a move she opined was the last resort to regaining lost public trust.

Though Sanusi was suspended for ‘financial recklessness’, his act was interpreted as punishment for whistle blowing, Ngozi added.

In June 2014, embattled Sanusi was eventually crowned the Emir of Kano after the death of his grand uncle, Ado Bayero.

On assumption into office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed that his administration will probe the missing $20 billion allegedly unaccounted for from the country’s oil accounts. Buhari said that though the former governor of the apex bank had already assumed the position as the new Emir of Kano, the probe for the missing monies fraudulently unaccounted for became expedient, adding that the figure was too huge to ignore.

Efforts to reach Emir Sanusi’s Spokesperson, Munir Sanusi, were unsuccessful as he did not pick calls or reply a message sent to his mobile telephone for official response.

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CSO calls for action as Nigeria ranks among 14 countries where killers of journalists go unpunished

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A cross-section of participants at the event
A cross-section of participants at the event themed "Impunity for Crime against Journalists, a Threat to Democracy"

A civil society organisation (CSO), Safer-Media Initiative, has called on the federal government of Nigeria to take stringent actions to end impunity for crimes against journalists as Nigeria ranks among 14 countries where killers of journalists go unpunished.

The charge was made on November 2 in Abuja by the Executive Director of the organisation, Peter Iorter during a press conference with the theme “Impunity for Crime against Journalists, a Threat to Democracy”. The event was held as part of its activities to mark this year’s International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

Participants at the event comprised representatives of the media, other civil society organisations, and the private sector.

In his opening remark, Iorter cited a UNESCO report which revealed that between 2016 and 2017, 182 Journalists lost their lives in the line of professional duty while in 2018; 86 of them were killed between January and October.

In a press release made available to SATELLITE TIMES, Iorter said that “shocking and infuriating is that in nine out of ten cases, the killers go unpunished. Even more disturbing is that Nigeria has consistently remained a contributor to those stunning global figures.”

In 2017, data collected by the International Press Centre (IPC) showed that at least two Nigerian journalists were killed while 12 journalists and media organizations in the country suffered various forms of assault.

A group photograph of some of the participants at the event

The slain journalists are Famous Giobaro of Bayelsa State-owned radio station, Glory FM 97.1, who was shot dead on April 16; and Lawrence Okojie of Nigerian Television Authority, Benin, who was shot dead while returning from work on July 8.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in an annual global impunity index published few days ago said Nigeria ranked 13 out of 14 countries in the world where journalists are slain and the killers circumvent justice.

According to Iorter, the alarming global reports propelled his organisation to raise concern that the Nigerian press is under “grave threat”.

“It is unfortunate, worrisome, and unacceptable that violations and assaults on journalists have continued unabated under a supposedly democratic system of governance,” he said.

He further condemned the incessant harassment, physical violence, arrest and detention of journalists by agents of government including the Department of State Service (DSS), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), among others.

“Their salaries are paid with tax payers’ money to protect citizens; any action of theirs to the contrary amounts to breach of the social contract,” he added.

Furthermore, Ioter also insisted that the rights of journalists must be protected at all times.

He called on the National Assembly to recognize the urgent need to strengthen the laws that promote media freedom and provide protection for journalists.

While fielding questions from journalists at the event, Iorter said his organization is poised toward press freedom, safety of journalists and advancement of responsible media.

Mr. Peter Iorter is also an Editor at SATELLITE TIMES newspaper.

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