By Adekunle Aliyu
The Defence Headquarters have refuted the claims by Amnesty International that the Army was notified hours before the Chibok attack and consequently kidnap of 276 girls in Borno.
This came as the Minister Of Information, Mr Labaran Maku said on Friday that Federal Government will investigate the Amnesty International report which indicated that the Nigeria’s military had advance warning of the attack on Chibok where the girls were kidnapped but failed to act
The DHQ in a statement signed by Chris Olukolade Major General Director Defence Information/Coordinator stated that the allegation by Amnesty International, that the military authority was informed of the impending attack but failed to nip it in the bud, is very unfortunate and untrue.
Much as the Nigerian military appreciates the global concern and show of solidarity with the country at this trying moments, falsehood should not be introduce as a means of assessing the situation. It has to be categorically stated that the claims by Amnesty International in its report that security forces had advance warning about the abduction of students of Government Secondary School Chibok, Borno State by terrorists is unfounded.
Contrary to the organisation’s claims, troops in Maiduguri did not receive four hours forewarning about the attacks. Rather, they received information of an ongoing attack on Chibok community from troops on patrol who on noting the attack engaged the terrorists and called for more reinforcement to contain them.
As the troops on reinforcement traversed the over 120km rugged and tortuous road from Maiduguri to Chibok, they ran into an ambush by terrorists who engaged them in fierce firefight and a number of soldiers lost their lives. Another set of soldiers also mobilized for the mission arrived after the terrorists had escaped due to a series of misleading information that slowed down the pursuit.
It must therefore be clearly stated that contrary to the claim by the Amnesty International, the information received by troops at the Division Headquarters in Maiduguri was not a forewarning but the call for reinforcement by troops on patrol. Considering the vastness of the mission area, deployment has been more of patrols than static.
The imputation of cowardice on the part of troops is particularly confounding as the military has internal mechanism to deal with such tendencies. These spurious allegations are obviously a continuation of the campaign intended to cause disaffection, portray the military in bad light and undermine the counter-terrorism efforts.
Although the Chibok incident is still subject to more investigation, the Defence Headquarters appeals to individuals and organisations to refrain from circulating spurious allegations that could undermine both the operation and investigation of conduct of the mission generally.
Amnesty International in it report said that the Nigeria’s military had advanced warning of the April 14 attack by Boko Haram that led to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls but failed to take immediate action.
“Damning testimonies gathered by Amnesty International reveal that Nigerian security forces failed to act on advance warnings about Boko Haram’s armed raid on the state-run boarding school in Chibok which led to the abduction,” the rights group said.
Amnesty said it had verified the information about the abduction with “credible sources”.
“Amnesty International has confirmed… that Nigeria’s military headquarters in Maiduguri was aware of the impending attack soon after 7:00 PM (1800 GMT) on 14 April, close to four hours before Boko Haram began their assault on the town,” the group said.
The military however could not assemble the troops needed to suppress the attack, “due to poor resources and a reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped” Islamists, according to Amnesty.
The 17 army personnel based in Chibok were overpowered by the attackers and had to retreat, the London-based group further said.
“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 for research and advocacy