Amnesty International has indicted the Governor of Borno State Kashim Shettima and military hierarchy in the state of complicity in the eventual kidnapped of over 200 girls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok.
In a report, Amnesty said sources confirmed that the military and the governor were informed four hours well ahead of the incident but failed to act on intelligence reports.
“The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram’s impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Research and Advocacy.
“It amounts to a gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians, who remain sitting ducks for such attacks. The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls’ safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again.”
Amnesty International said the Nigeria’s military headquarters in Maiduguri was aware of the impending attack soon after 7:00 PM on 14 April, close to four hours before Boko Haram began their assault on the town, adding that inability to muster troops – due to poor resources and a reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped armed groups – meant that reinforcements were not deployed to Chibok that night.
According to Amnesty the small contingent of security forces based in the town – 17 army personnel as well as local police –attempted to repel the Boko Haram assault but were overpowered and forced to retreat. One soldier reportedly died.
Amnesty International reiterates its call on Boko Haram to immediately and unconditionally release the hostages into safety and stop all attacks on civilians.
“The abduction and continued detention of these school girls are war crimes, and those responsible must be brought to justice. Attacks on schools also violate the right to education and must be halted immediately,” said Netsanet Belay.
“Between 7:00 PM on 14 April and 2:00 AM on 15 April, the military commands in Damboa, 36.5 km away from Chibok, and Maiduguri, 130 km away from Chibok, were repeatedly alerted to the threat by both security and local officials.
According to sources interviewed by Amnesty International, local civilian patrols (known as “vigilantes”, set up by the military and local authorities) in Gagilam, a neighbouring village, were among the first to raise the alarm on the evening of 14 April after a large group of unidentified armed men entered their village on motorbikes and said they were headed to Chibok. This set off a rapid chain of phone calls to alert officials, including the Borno State Governor and senior military commanders based in Maiduguri.
“One local official who was contacted by Gagilam residents told Amnesty International: “At around 10:00 PM on 14 April, I called [several] security officers to inform them about earlier information I had received from the vigilantes in Gagilam village. They had told us that strange people had arrived in their village that evening on motorbikes and they said they were heading to Chibok. I made several other calls, including to Maiduguri. I was promised by the security people that reinforcement were on their way.”
“Another local official was contacted by herdsmen who said that armed men had asked where the Government Girls Secondary School was located in Chibok.
“At around 11:45 PM, a convoy reportedly numbering up to 200 armed Boko Haram fighters – on motorbikes and in trucks – arrived in Chibok town and engaged in a gunfight with a small number of police and soldiers based there. Outnumbered and outgunned, the security forces eventually fled in the small hours of 15 April. Some of the Boko Haram fighters proceeded to the Government Girls Secondary School and abducted more than 240 schoolgirls.
“Two senior officers in Nigeria’s armed forces confirmed that the military was aware of the planned attack even prior to the calls received from local officials. One officer said the commander was unable to mobilize reinforcements. He described to Amnesty International the difficulties faced by frontline soldiers in north-eastern Nigeria.
“There’s a lot of frustration, exhaustion and fatigue among officers and [troops] based in the hotspots…many soldiers are afraid to go to the battle fronts.”
Amnesty International’s requests for a reaction from the military headquarters in Abuja have gone unanswered.
The information on the advance warnings of the impending Boko Haram attack in Chibok came from multiple sources, including local officials and two senior military officers, interviewed by Amnesty International.