Analysis: The Dapchi Schoolgirls Abduction Debacle
Reminiscent of the abduction of 276 Chibok Girls four years ago, Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT) on Monday, 19th February 2018, invaded Government Girls Science and Technical College, (GGSTC), (formerly Government Girls Secondary School, GGSS), Dapchi, Bursari Local Government Area of Yobe State, Northeast Nigeria. Dapchi, a dusty farming community sits approximately 100km from Damaturu, the Yobe state capital. Locals confirmed that the insurgents were dressed in military fatigues and turbans. They moved into the town at about 6pm in about eight Hilux vans and some Tata trucks bearing Arabic inscriptions. They were unchallenged, firing automatic weapons sporadically and shouting ‘’Allahu Akbar’’, meaning God is the greatest. The gunmen were clearly strangers given that they did not know the location of the girls’ school – GGSTC even though it is located on the road leading to Gashua town. Not knowing their way around, the Kanuri speaking gunmen eventually forced some residents to show them the location of the school. They shook hands with some natives and asked them to proceed with their prayers, that they are not there for them. After abducting scores of girls, they headed east, towards Gumsa village. Open source intelligence suggests that half of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls may have been ferried across the border into neighbouring Niger Republic.
Characteristic of the belated, reactive approach to security issues in Nigeria by security agencies; soldiers reportedly arrived Dapchi two hours after the attack and did not give the assailants any pursuit. Recall that this is not the first time Boko Haram will attack a school in Yobe state. Four years ago, precisely on February 25th, 2014, Boko Haram Terrorists attacked Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State and slaughtered about 59 secondary school boys. Also recall that on November 24th 2014, Boko Haram abducted about five hundred children from Damasak while in another incident, scores of children were burnt to death on the outskirts of Maiduguri. The United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF), asserts that about 1,400 schools (57% of them in Borno) have been shut down, 3 million children are in need of emergency education support and over 2,000 school teachers have lost their lives to Boko Haram insurgencies.
Tantamount to a déjà vu, the warm response that heralded the Chibok School girls’ abduction also played out in the case of the Dapchi School girls. If the Jonathan government’s initial scepticism and lukewarm approach was condoned with the claim that such an incident was unprecedented, the Buhari administration’s initial denial cannot be excused because there was a precedent. Nigeria’s quiet president is yet to address the nation on the Dapchi school girls’ abduction. It was five days after the incident, on Friday 24th February that the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Presidency, Mr. Garba Shehu issued a press statement on behalf of his boss. The Nigerian military reportedly claimed it rescued some of the abducted Dapchi school girls but their claims turned out to be false. Seven days after dragging its feet, the Buhari administration finally confirmed the abduction of 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi, Yobe state. Typical of the Nigerian establishment’s penchant for administering medicine after death, five days after the Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction, the Nigerian government on February 25th 2018, ordered the police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, to deploy their personnel to schools in Yobe state. What for?
The Bring Back Our Girls Group (BBOG) alleges that the Buhari government is intimidating and muzzling parents of the Dapchi girls into silence. A Nigerian journalist knowledgeable about Boko Haram and presumed to have access to the sect’s leadership, Ahmad Salkida agrees that no lessons were learnt from previous incidents. In a tweet, Mr. Salkida wrote, ‘’What has been learned from the past- absolutely zero. We have an over-bloated system that still banks on a colonial structure. The system is arrogant, ignorant, disconnected and lacks the ability to adapt. The insurgents are familiar with this and have leveraged on it.’’ In so-called “saner” climes, heads will roll; people vested with the responsibility of protecting citizens would have been fired or personally resigned as a result of these embarrassing mass abductions. According to New York Post, the Sheriff who did nothing to stop the shooter in Florida, United States of America, resigned thereafter.
The Dapchi school girls’ abduction tragedy has more questions than answers. The Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam blames the abduction of the Dapchi schoolgirls on the unexpected ‘’withdrawal of security personnel from communities in the state.’’ The governor alleges that ‘’security check points were withdrawn from Dapchi and other communities a few days before the attack.’’ Was it a coincidence that Boko Haram Terrorists invaded Dapchi community shortly after the purported withdrawal of soldiers from that community?
Nigerians will like to know if there was a risk assessment, who ordered the withdrawal of soldiers and dismantling of security check-points in Dapchi and other neighbouring communities. Or could an insider have tipped off Boko Haram Terrorists about the prospect of the withdrawal?
Now that military authorities deny that troops were withdrawn, isn’t it negligence of duty that the soldiers didn’t confront or go after the assailants? If soldiers were on ground, Boko Haram wouldn’t have had a free rein. If troops were on ground, they were certainly not within the school’s vicinity or roads leading to and out of Dapchi town. This also means the rapid response squad was absent. I think there’s some disconnect in the military’s claims. Moving on, where was Nigeria’s much touted Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)’s capable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle- the ‘’TSAIGUMI’’ – reportedly manufactured by the Nigerian Air force (NAF)? Apart from the aforesaid drone, Nigeria is said to have the following air assets with night vision capabilities – Alenia ATR-42-500MPA Surveyor, the Beechcraft Super King Air 350i and Diamond Sensing DA42 MPP in its inventory. Why did military authorities not scramble these aircrafts immediately the Dapchi girls were reported missing? Dr. Freedom C. Onuoha of the National Defence College, now with University of Nigeria Nsukka, submits in a tweet that, ‘’The disaster in Dapchi is not in the occurrence but in the response. The question is we ask is, where were the air assets that ought to have being deployed for ISR operation immediately to avoid a repeat of the Chibok girls incident?
Just wondering- Please where do Boko Haram Terrorists keep the hundreds of people they abduct? Do they have underground bunkers? Recall that more than a hundred abducted Chibok school girls are still in Boko Haram’s custody almost four years after they were abducted. Is it rocket science to gather actionable intelligence from the freed Chibok girls regarding inter-alia, the modus operandi of Boko Haram and where they were held captive?
Amnesty, Penchant for Paying Ransoms to Terrorists Prompted Dapchi Girls Abduction
While the Nigerian government is bent on freeing Boko Haram Terrorists under various guises – prisoner swap deals, wishy-washy deradicalization programs and lack of evidence, the sect remains unfazed and resilient. The offshoot of the ‘famed’ negotiation between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government was the swapping of 84 abducted Chibok schoolgirls with five detained senior Boko Haram commanders and reportedly, payment of a humongous two million Euros ransom to the Islamic Sect. Similarly, we hear a that quid pro quo payment of ransom facilitated the recent release of University of Maiduguri lecturers and some women who had been abducted by a faction of Boko Haram. What do you expect when a government inadvertently becomes the chief financier of an unremorseful band of terrorists? Boko Haram has essentially tried and mastered the art of kidnap for ransom as a manipulative bargaining chip. They give with one hand (release some Chibok schoolgirls) and take (Dapchi schoolgirls) with the other hand. Discerning minds are not surprised with Boko Haram’s recurrent attacks. My analysis published September 22nd 2016: ‘’Recidivism; Unintended Consequences of Amnesty To Boko Haram Insurgents, Militants And Chibok Girls’ Swop’’ and ‘’Terrorist Recidivism: Rethinking the Carte Blanche Amnesty to Boko Haram Terrorists’’ published February 7th 2018, forecasted the turnout of events. This vicious cycle of kidnap for ransom and extortion (KRE), will likely persist in the foreseeable future.
Many out there, not just Nigerians are ashamed of this Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction saga. To paraphrase CNN’s Isha Sesay’s assertion, Buhari calling the Dapchi schoolgirls abduction a national disaster is an understatement, it is a PROFOUND national disgrace. It follows that no lessons were learnt and no measures were put in place after the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction to forestall such recurrence.
It feels strange that Boko Haram Terrorists will ‘’disappear’’ hundreds of people from the face of planet earth without Nigerian security and intelligence agencies having any clue as to where these Nigerians vanished to.
Imagine the man hours, logistics and resources involved in planning, abducting hundreds of people, transporting, housing/feeding and clothing them. It is not a mean feat. This explains why doubting Thomases dispute the plausibility of the Chibok schoolgirls abduction till date. I may be forced to concede that Boko Haram Terrorists are after all a step, or several steps ahead of the Nigerian security/intelligence agencies. The Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction debacle attest inter-alia that-
(a) The Nigerian government albeit a signatory to the Safe School Declaration/Initiative, has failed to ensure that schools in northeast Nigeria are safe and conducive for learning
(b) Contrary to the stale spin by the Nigerian government and the military, Boko Haram is still very much a threat; it has not been defeated, technically or otherwise
(c) Nigeria is struggling to hold on to swathes of grounds it reclaimed from Boko Haram
(d) There are ungoverned spaces in Nigeria
(e) Nigeria is systematically exhibiting symptoms of a failing or failed state; this explains why the Fund For Peace (FFP), a Washington DC-based organization, for the second time in a row, ranked Nigeria as the thirteenth least stable country in the world out of 177 nations appraised in the 2017 Fragile State Index (FSI). The least Nigerians expect is that some people up there in the security echelon would take responsibility for this massive international embarrassment, breach of security and intelligence failure and do the needful – throw in the towel – or be sacked. By the way, Boko Haram Terrorist group has metamorphosed into a political game changer. The Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction was one of Goodluck Jonathan’s undoing and contributed to his unsuccessful re-election bid.