10 JANUARY 2017
Today marks Day Three of our Global Week Of Action to commemorate the 1000th Day of abduction of our Chibok Girls. It is worthy to remind our fellow citizens that when our initial 276 daughters were violently removed from their dormitories, Borno and two other North-eastern states of Yobe and Adamawa were under State of Emergency with ‘dusk to dawn curfew’ effective. A State of Emergency puts the Military of a country in martial control. It must be stated here today that intelligence of possible attack on Chibok came hours before the abduction of April 14, 2014. Again, the escape of 57 of the initial girls happened without Military rescue of any sort. Effective fight back or rescue operation never happened either. That must be one of the lowest moments in the history of the hitherto revered Nigerian Military. It was not a surprise when newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari exclaimed on June 8, 2015, during our Movement’s visit to the Aso Villa that “How are the mighty fallen!”
It is a fact that our country has had a checkered history between citizens and our military establishment because of the civil war, several coups and counter coups, invasion of different communities and groups at different times and cases of human rights abuses. There is a lingering distrust in civil-military relations in our country as a result of all these. Nonetheless, nothing of the imperfection of the military establishment should override our appreciation of the enormous sacrifices in patriotism that soldiers in the war front make daily for our country and people.
Besides the tens of thousands of civilian victims of terrorist attacks, no other group than the Nigerian soldiers and intelligence personnel have lost the most lives in the over eight year old counterinsurgency war. It is for this reason that we are dedicating the third march of our #DAY1000 Global Week of Action to the Military with a special focus on the welfare of our forces. We therefore urge everyone to join us now in observing a minute silence in honor of all our military personnel who have died in gallantry, fighting to liberate and secure our citizens and land in the terrorist war.
CONDOLENCES FOR LATEST MILITARY CASUALTIES.
Our hearts are still filled with heaviness over the latest attack that happened last weekend on the Headquarters of the 27 Task Force Brigade in Buni-Yadi, Yobe State. Four of our soldiers died in that attack, among whom was the Medical Officer, Captain Victor Ugochukwu Ulasi. We wish to condole all the families of these gallant Nigerian soldiers cut short in the prime of their service to nation. May the peace and comfort of God fill the minds of all families that have lost loved ones. May their sacrifices not be in vain. May the Lord comfort their families, the military and our nation at the loss of our heroes.
NIGERIANS HONOUR OUR SOLDIERS
We launched the initiative #NigeriansHonourOurHeroes on 12 November 2015 to both mourn and honor the gallantry of our soldiers in the counterinsurgency war. The death of exceptional commanding officers like Lt. Col. Abu Ali of the 272 Tank Battalion and Lt. Col. B.U. Umar of 114 Task Force Battalion with a number of their colleagues shook the country and brought to the fore the many losses of patriots and unsung heroes of our country’s war against terrorism. The Nigerian public were united in grief and praise of our soldiers. Citizens expressed gratitude, pledged support and advocated for a better welfare for our soldiers and their families.
We wish to once again ask the public to always honor the sacrifices, courage and patriotism of the men and women who have risked all to defend us. Our troops repeatedly and consistently protect us and defended our national security. They deserve our daily gratitude.
We want to use today being DAY1002 of our ChibokGirls abduction to reiterate a number of actions necessary to improve the conditions and well being of our soldiers at the battlefront. This statement draws substantially from one of the key documents produced by our movement titled , “Citizens’ Solution To End Terrorism”.
1. IDENTITY OF NIGERIAN WAR HEROES
Our Movement believes that according dignity to the lives of our soldiers at the war front is key to honoring their service and sacrifice. We insist that it is necessary for our country to uphold the military tradition of properly mourning and honoring EVERY one of our military men and women who are casualties of war with no exception. To do so, it instructs that the Nigerian Military adheres to the tenets of transparency in the reporting of the counterinsurgency war. It is not right that when any of our soldiers are missing or killed at the war front, not enough information is provided on number, name and identity. Napoleon Bonaparte had said “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon”. Identity is the first step to that honor that is desired by every combatant who fights for their country.
We are grossly disappointed that there are many instances of loss of military and police personnel that are not known to their families. There are also many cases where neither the military, the police nor the federal government conclusively provided closure on the whereabouts of officers that were alleged to have been missing in combat. For example, what is the status of the 57 police officers that were abducted from the Gwoza Police command almost three years after? Have they been fully accounted for to their families? Why has the Police not provided any status report on that incident? Such lack of closure does not inspire others to patriotic feats.
2. ADEQUATE FINANCING OF THE WAR AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT FOR RESULTS.
Our movement has always advocated for adequate financing of the counterinsurgency war. Complementary to this is a necessity for the military establishment to produce commensurate results for the funding it receives. This can only happen through transparent and effective financial management systems that prioritize and account for spending appropriately. Whenever we hear or read of allegations of military resources allocated to prosecute the war becoming mired in misappropriation and misallocation it shocks the public. The shock is deeper when officers, men and women lose their lives at the war front because they were poorly equipped. It is for this reason that we unequivocally demand that the Federal Government, the military and security establishments should immediately entrench systems of transparency, accountability and measurement of results in the financing of the war. While it is understandable that security operations are mostly classified, citizens believe that a degree of transparency, accountability and disclosure is essential to gaining public confidence and achieving optimal results.
3. RESOURCING OUR TROOPS: WEAPONS, INTEL AND LOGISTICS
The misinformation around the abduction of school girls in Chibok raises serious concerns about information sharing within the security agencies.
Citizens want to be reassured of the adequacy of equipping and technical capacity of our military and intelligence teams to continue prosecute the war on terror to ultimate and absolute victory. Can the military factually affirm that it has procured the cutting edge military equipment and technology necessary to successfully prosecute the war? Has our intelligence community procured the sophisticated range of intelligence assets necessary to anticipate and prevent attacks as well as to trace the activities of our enemies?
We urge the Federal Government and the military/security establishments to institute an independent audit to ascertain the factual state of weapons, equipment, intelligence assets and other logistical requirements for executing the war on terror successfully. All investigations launched by the Federal Government on the procurement activities of the military prosecuting the war should be concluded and redacted reports should be issued so the public is properly informed. Such transparency help to build public confidence for and in our military. We want to be confident that our gallant soldiers on the frontline lack none of the basic services and timely withdrawal for rest as necessary.
Occasionally, allegations filter to the public reporting a disconnect between the troops on the ground and the command center. Our ground troops need the most empowering base support functions to be effective with their counter insurgency role. We therefore demand that they must at all times be fully supported morally and with adequate resources to prevent avoidable casualties.
The visuals and images of Nigerian soldiers scrambling with desperation for water and complaining of exhaustion because of hunger are too embarrassing for our country and should never happen again.
There are spins and there are truths. Today must be the moment of Truth. It must be the day we look ourselves in the eye as a nation and say enough is enough. Enough of losing some of our brightest young officers not to the bullets of the enemy, but to ineptness, under-capacitation, lack of accountability, poor governance system, inadequate welfare packages, corruption and an opaque national security strategy of our Military administration and Intelligence systems.
4. THE WELL BEING OF OUR TROOPS
A corollary to the financial transparency that our movement demands is an assurance that the welfare of our troops is given upmost priority by the government and military leadership. This includes, but not limited to, provision of :
(1) premium life insurance cover for all soldiers deployed to fight insurgency,
(2) adequate and timely compensation for the families of agents killed in the line of duty,
(3) adequate care and support for agents injured in the line of duty, and
(4) adequate reward for gallantry.
This is the time to upgrade the reward system for families of fallen soldiers, both officers and other ranks. A review must be done with the harsh reality of our present economic travails in mind. Our Movement hereby request for a Public Inquest into the management and administration of funds maintained for the upkeep or benefit of the families of our fallen soldiers;
How has it been administered?
What are the protocols for disbursement?
Are the packages one off for the families of fallen soldiers or recurring with a timeline?
What frameworks are put in place to insulate the fund from corrupt diversion?
How can the funding window be broadened to avert paucity in tough economic seasons?
Considering that the country has been at war with the Terrorist Sect for many years now, it is expected that Nigeria would have taken notes and lessons from the failures of the past and put the welfare of our serving Military men as paramount key to the victory we are fighting for. Putting their welfare as central to the goal of victory will ignite fiery motivation and commitment. In the words of the Playwright and Social Critic, James Arthur Baldwin:
“Fires can’t be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labour into pleasant tasks”.
5. PROTOCOL OF ENGAGEMENT WITH CITIZENS
There has to be a defined protocol for obtaining information and sharing information with citizens. During such cases of domestic terrorism, a public system through which information can be passed between citizens and the security forces must exist. The presence of such a protocol is essential to the protection of Nigerian lives. It is unacceptable that in the last 4 years, despite many discussions, Nigeria still does not have a functional nation-wide emergency number. The 112 phone number that was launched.
Communities should be encouraged to set up Community Safety Groups / Neighborhood Watch Groups. Community members know their communities better than the security agencies. They need to take an interest and connect with security organizations. There needs to be support and protection for the communities that are supporting the security agencies. This is especially critical as many citizens are encouraged to return to their formerly terrorist occupied communities regained by our soldiers.
Our Movement calls on the federal government and the military to design a robust plan of action and negotiate a unified template with local communities for participation in security& intelligence gathering. Such a plan should adequately provide for (1) anonymous reporting of suspicious people or situations, (2) protection of informants who feel threatened, (3) rapid response to actionable intelligence, (4) feedback between military and communities, and (5) measures to mitigate abuse of mandate by civilians.
In addition, we suggest a monthly meeting between security operatives and community stakeholders in communities most affected by these acts of violence. We need an alternative that encourages more collaboration and information sharing to bridge the gap of communication. For the larger populace, the National Assembly should host Quarterly Public Hearings to keep citizens reasonably updated on the status of counter insurgency operations.
GOD bless our soldiers at the battlefront!
God bless the citizens of Nigeria.
God bless Nigeria.
Signed: For and on behalf of BringBackOurGirls