Senators from Nigeria’s terrorist-torn Borno State yesterday opened a can of worms, painting a clear picture of how the country’s military and the Jonathan administration have woefully failed to act on intelligence reports that could have led to the rescue of the over 200 innocent girls abducted over two weeks ago from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok.
Senators Ahmed Zannah (Borno Central) and Ali Ndume (Borno South) gave the heart-rending expose while contributing to a motion entitled “Abduction of School girls in Chibok, Borno State” sponsored by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba and 107 others.
Below are their exact words:
Senator Ahmed Zannah (Borno Central): “Since the beginning of this siege, I kept mute on this issue as far as press releases and press interviews are concerned. “I have been constantly in touch with the security agencies, telling them the developments, the movement of the girls from one place to the other and then the splitting of the girls and eventually the marriage of these girls by the insurgents. “What bothers me most is that whenever I inform where these are, after two to three days, they will be moved from that place to another and still, I will go back and inform them that see, this is what is happening. “I lost hope two days ago when I found out that some of them were moved to Chad and Cameroon.
“Actually, some of them move through the Mandara mountain that is in Gwoza and some of them are just a stone throw from their barracks, even now as I am talking to you, in Cameroon because it is in Kolofata, which is in Cameroon about 15 kilometres or even less to the borders because one of the insurgents called somebody in Bama and said: ‘I just got married and I am now settling in Kolofata’. “Then three or four days ago, some Fulani men reported that they saw some girls being taken by boats into the Island in Lake Chad and that some of them happened to be between Marte and Mungonu.
“Maybe, those ones might still be within Nigeria, but that is the current and new base of the insurgents. They just took over that place less than a week and that village is called Chikungudua. The place is the constituency of Senator Maina Mai’ji Lawan. “But I informed the security agents about the situation and from that place, they can just go into the lake and go to either Chad or Cameroon because it is very open, there are no weeds in the lake and so they can go anywhere. “They have snatched all the boats around that area, including the one for NNPC, and so they are free to go anywhere without being chased by anybody. “There are about 40 islands there and they have ejected most of the occupants of the islands and they have occupied the islands. “What is most disturbing is that hitherto, Sambisa was their base and is well known to the military and Nigerian security.
“Even before then, I had been discussing with the military and they said they were going to attack that place, about 15 or 20 days ago, I don’t know what delayed them. “But, eventually when they launched the attack, all the insurgents had already gone out of the place.
So, I don’t know what is happening. “Even before then, I even told them about the shrubs in Northern Borno where they stayed last year till after the rainy season. “Since rainy season is approaching, I told them that these people will leave Sambisa and other areas and go to that shrub but it seems there is no much presence of military around that area up till now and they are now much moving into those shrubs.
“And when they go in, the shrub has some canopy whereby the ground is empty and you cannot see any human or animal movement under that canopy even with aircraft. “It is the same place where they hid last year and came out after the rainy season without any challenge; they came into the hinterland.
“I don’t know if the military can take very serious and willing action in this matter but if there is no way to fight them, I think we are wasting our time. It all depends on their willingness. “I was interviewed by the press on whether if the state of emergency was extended, the military would succeed and I said ‘yes, if there was willingness, they will’.
“Their number is not all that much as being touted and without cooperation from certain group of people within the security agencies, there is no way these people will survive like this. “But when we talk, they will say we are against them; we are exposing them; we are demoralising their troops. These are the facts. “So, unless there is spirit of seriousness on the part of our military, we have no hope of getting those girls; even if we are going to get them, we are going to get them in trickles; maybe getting two, three, four, and five. They are now scattered. So it is not possible for us to get 50, 60, 100 in one particular position. This is the position as at today.”
Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South): “The 53 girls we have were those that escaped. We have to speak the truth. “I am a little bit emotional because you cannot understand what we are going through until you visit these areas. The only place there is relative peace is where there are civilian JTF. “The military deployed there are doing their best, but I cannot ask any of them to do more than what they are doing.
You need to see their equipment and there is no motivation. “Whenever we go there, we buy food. As days go by, most of these girls are divided and forcefully married out. How they do that and where they passed remain a mystery.
“I appreciate the motion but there is no action. We speak to commanders on ground and their complaints are the same: no motivation.
“Their number is few and there is no equipment to match their opponents. Every time we budget trillions of naira for defence but I have not seen any new equipment on ground. The armoured vehicles are those of 1950s.””