The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement has made a fresh demand for the rescue of the 195 Chibok girls remaining in Boko Haram captivity. The movement also said it would no longer tolerate delays in their release and excuses from President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it was indecision on the part of the government that robbed the military of the time to defeat the insurgents before they became unmanageable.
The group's position was contained in a statement jointly signed by its co-conveners, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and Mrs. Aisha Yesufu.
In the statement, the BBOG asked the Federal Government to adopt a rescue strategy that poses the lowest risk to the girls.
"The possibilities remain rescue by the military operation, release through negotiation with the terrorists and finally, a combination of the two options," said the BBOG.
The group, which had some of its members on a guided tour of Sambisa Forest facilitated by the Federal Government, added that it has become better convinced that the combination approach was what helped achieve the release of 24 of the girls that have so far regained freedom from Boko Haram captivity.
"While three of our ChibokGirls were indirectly recovered as a result of military operation in the war zone, 21 of their friends were released by the Boko Haram terrorists as a result of negotiations by the Federal Government.
"While we urge the military to accelerate its counter-insurgency operations, which we observed during our guided tour, we must ask the Federal Government to speedily fulfill its public promise of negotiating the release a set of 83 of our #ChibokGirls as conveyed by the spokesperson for the President last October when 21 of their colleagues were released," the group demanded.
The BBOG said its members noted during the guided tour in which it participated that the Minister of information and Culture as well as the Minister of Defence revealed that negotiations are still ongoing to secure the release of 83 girls, but added that it would remain strident in its demand for the rescue of all remaining 195 of girls and other abducted people.
"We shall not stop demanding for their rescue until all our girls are back and alive. And so, as we continue to monitor the activities of the Federal Government to rescue or secure the release of our girls, we urge that it should accelerate the effort to avoid another tragic milestone date of Day 1,100.
The BBOG disclosed that it feels vindicated that the Federal Government's counter-insurgency initiative requires transparency for it to be successful. It advised that Nigerians need to come together to win the war against terror.
"A nation at war with a common enemy needs to be united to win. Unity of all stakeholders affected by the war– the government, the military, the directly affected citizens, and the wider Nigerian public is best achieved entrenching transparency in the way the war is communicated. It is on record that #BringBackOurGirls had, on many occasions in the past, demanded that independent media should occasionally be embedded within the troops at the theater of war to enable accurate reporting of the progress being made by the military.
"Such transparency and accurate reporting of the war can also honestly reveal challenges for our troops that can be quickly resolved without creating distrust for the government and military establishment. Such accurate media reporting helps to build trust and achieve buy-in of the Nigerian public for the government and the military in the prosecution of the war," advised the BBOG.
The group observed that the participation of its members, alongside the independent media, in the tour of Sambisa General Area confirmed its belief that the military should do more to foster a transparent relationship with the media and civil society, especially with its long history of distrust by the public.
For example, suggested the BBOG, the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) can quickly provide clarifications on the size of the Sambisa General Area, which it presented during the guided tour as 60,000 square kilometers and 18 times the size of Lagos. It added that the public debate sparked by the data on Sambisa Forest provided during the tour can be put to bed by a clarification from the NAF. This, reasoned the BBOG, can help promote transparency and build public confidence in the military.
Also, the group asked the Federal Government to clarify its claim on Camp Zairo as it relates to its capture and provide better communication of its counter-insurgency objectives. The group explained that despite the progress made, the objectives of the counter-insurgency war require constant review and clarification by the Federal Government and the military for the benefit of the public.
"This is to enable the public to know when milestones and defined results have been achieved. This is especially given the recent miscommunication to the public on the significance of the military capture of Camp Zairo. Our experience, during the guided tour, of the analyses that happen in the NAF technical war room; our participation in the ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platform search process; our new insight into the level of coordination between the air and ground troops in intelligence gathering and operations; and finally, our access to the data trends of the counterinsurgency during our visit show that war objectives, milestones, constraints, failures, and results can be better communicated to the public by the Federal Government and the military," counselled the BBOG. The movement recalled that its members asked during the visit to Sambisa and will, with the capture of Camp Zairo, ask again: “What is the end game?” “What is success?” “What and when is victory determined for counterinsurgency war?”
It contended that Nigerians need to know have answers to the questions.
"In a democracy, the government must embrace the culture of being answerable to citizens. The less antagonistic a government acts toward those in society, who scrutinize its actions and demand accountability, the faster the progress that our country can make," the movement advised.
It further called on the Federal Government to widen access to information in a way that boosts empirical advocacy, noting that the guided tour provided access to data, real time information and knowledge of the air component of the counterinsurgency war. The BBOG said it is now better informed, on account of the tour, to scrutinize the decisions and activities of the Federal Government and the military on the war.
"Empirical advocacy by citizens can be highly beneficial to government also. In any democracy, the government has a constitutional duty to answer every question on governance that citizens ask. It is those governments that imbibe such democratic accountability culture that invariably do well to guarantee citizens’ access to information. That way, it eschews rumors and anecdotes as a basis of citizens’ again agitation on issues of governance.
"The government must embrace the culture of continually being answerable to citizens. The less antagonistic government acts towards those in society who scrutinize its actions and demand accountability, the faster progress society makes," observed the BBOG.
The group vowed to continue its demand for appropriate decisions, actions and accountability to rescue the abducted girls, saying the more factual information provided by the government and military, the more robust the interaction will be.
The BBOG noted that a good starting point would be for the Federal Government to immediately act on a Freedom of Information request it filed over a year ago by publishing the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North-East (the Tanimu Turaki Committee) 2013, and the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on the Abduction of the Chibok School Girls (the General Sabo Committee) reports.
It strongly advised President Buhari and the military to avoid delays in rescuing the abducted girls and end the war. It disclosed that its experience during its interaction with the NAF validated its position that if the right leadership, knowledge, expertise, equipment, intelligence had been swiftly deployed, the military would have defeated the insurgents.
"It was the failure of governance that delayed the swift response of the military to the abduction of our Chibok Girls on April 14, 2014. The same failure of governance was responsible for the delay in adequately resourcing our troops to effectively degrade the strength of Boko Haram terrorists and defend our territorial integrity. Delay of right action by our federal government helped escalate the insurgency. Those delays and failures are grossly costly regarding the loss of lives, time, and money that Nigeria has lost since the last eight years.
"These costs can be quantified in that, 30,000 — thirty thousand — of our citizens dead, an unknown number of our people including our 195 ChibokGirls still missing, 2.5 million— two and a half million — Nigerians dislodged and living in squalid conditions in Internally Displaced People’s Camps, and several billions of dollars in war financing. The knowledge we have gathered from a visit to the war zone has made our Movement resolute to continue with our demand for the leadership of the federal government and the military establishment to act end all delays and achieve a cessation of the war," said the group said.
The BBOG called on the President to provide the urgent leadership necessary to quickly resolve all issues associated with the counter-insurgency war. It also demanded a review of the expenditure on the war and called for the prosecution of those associated with corruption arising from it.
The group explained that NAF provided factual information of the building up of tools, equipment, and resources required for the anti-terror war since July 2015. The information, it added, enabled the BBOG to establish a strong link between financial resources allocated to the war and the results achieved over the same period.
"It, therefore, validated our previous calls on the Federal Government to institute an operational and expenditure review of the financial resources committed to the war since 2009.
"Such review process would help the country identify the colossal disconnect between financial resources and the results achieved. The findings of the operational and expenditure reviews can additionally identify the necessary financial and procurement systems measures and the accountabilities plus sanctions that must be taken to speed up results. Our Movement demands immediate action on this for the military and security establishments to improve value for money in their use of public funds," reckoned the group.
It further called on the Federal Government to immediately provide to the public an update on all the corruption cases associated with the prosecution of the war.
"Corruption must be conclusively punished especially where the act resulted in the loss of military and civilian lives in the North East and caused delays to the rescue of our ChibokGirls and other citizens abducted by Boko Haram terrorists.
"We therefore explicitly call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the prosecution teams led by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Federal Government, the Judiciary and the Nigerian Bar Association to feel the pulse of the Nigerian public, which wants all corruption cases speedily concluded. All these parties to successful corruption trial must stop delaying the judicial sanctions process," the group demanded.
The group called on Nigerians to continue using the hashtag #NigeriansHonourOurHeroes to push for the welfare of troops involved in the war and celebrate them.