Emotion rose at the Senate on Tuesday, 29th April, 2014, over the abduction of 234 school girls in Chibok, Borno State, northeast Nigeria just as the federal lawmakers unanimously condemned the abduction of the girls, urging federal government to declare total war against insurgency.
The Senate position was sequel to the motion sponsored by Senate leader Victor Ndoma Egba and 107 other Senators, over abduction of the school girls at Chibok and the Nyanya bomb blast that claimed the lives of over 70 persons recently.
Leading robust debate on the motion, the Senators noted that the abduction of the school girls was a clear indication of the deteriorating security situation in Borno and other parts of the country.
Before Ndoma read the motion, Senate President, Senator David Mark, had in a welcome stated that there should be no sacred cow on Federal Government fight against insurgency in Nigeria, even as Mark slammed politicians who are speaking along party line on the issue of terrorism.
“There is no doubt that our nation is at war. The enemy has clearly and unequivocally served the nation notice of its vile intentions. Therefore, a clear, unambiguous and decisive military response from the government, beyond the imposition of a state of emergency, is urgently required in this circumstance. This is an option we must consider now.
“It is obvious that we are dealing with insurgents and well funded nihilists who are determined to violently trample upon the secularity of the Nigerian state and destroy the country. A modern, vibrant, progressive, multi-ethnic, multi-religious Nigeria is an anathema to them. Because they are fired by zealotry and extremism, they are not likely to be swayed by overtures of any kind. We must henceforth shift from fighting terrorism to fighting insurgency,” he said.
Contributing to the motion, some Senators identified lack of cooperation from the locals, inferior military equipment, lack of motivation, and insufficient security personnel, as some of the shortcomings in the fight against insurgency in the country.
Senator Ahmed Zana representing Borno Central Senatorial District disclosed that information available to him shows that most of the abducted girls have been moved to Chad and Cameroon while others are in Chukungidiya in Marte Local Government Area of Borno State.
Senator Zana also disclosed that the girls have been forcefully married by the insurgents who are currently residing in some of the 40 islands in Borno.
Zana said: “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 into different groups and eventually the marriage of these girls by the insurgents.
“What bothers me most is that whenever I inform where these girls 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.
“But I lost hope two days ago when I found out that some of them have been 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 they are in Kolofata, which is in Cameroon about 15 kilometre or even less to the borders.
“One of the insurgents called somebody in Bama and said I just got married and said I am now settling in Kolofata and 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.”
Also, contributing to the motion, another Senator from Borno, Senator Ali Ndume, said lack of information worsened the rescue mission embarked upon by the military when they where alerted of the kidnap operation.
Ndume explained that when the insurgents arrived at Chibok, they went to the motor park and siezed seven vehicles to add to the ones they came with. He added that the insurgents appear to be having an upper hand in the fight because the soldiers protecting the area are not properly motivated and because the Nigerian military had no new equipment.
“The commanders had alleged that their allowances were not being paid and that the number of soldiers are inadequate.
There is no new equipment, all of them are old. The other time we went there, one of the armoured tanks broke down and we had to tow it with another vehicle,” he said.
Others Senators who contributed to the motion equally condemned the abduction and appealed to the insurgents free the girls.
After over three hours of deliberation, the Senate unanimously urged the Federal Government and all security agencies to intensify efforts at the immediate rescue of the abducted girls.
Senate President, Senator David Mark however cautioned that the war against the insurgents can only be won if those in affected areas cooperate with the military.
Mark said: “I had a 30 minutes chat with the traditional ruler in Chibok yesterday and the briefing he gave to me is identical with the submission of Senator Zana and the other people from Borno State.
“I have spent many years in the Senate here and I’m not sure there is any motion that has had so much emotional touch as this one.
“I think Ndume just managed to hold himself and the three Senators who spoke also. I think the issue is not so much as to whether Boko Haram is even in the country now or not but 234 girls can disappear and up till now none has been rescued.
The 53 who are back escaped on their own.
“The story that Ndume narrated about soldiers going in the wrong direction when they got the information is a clear indication of what we are in for. The people we are dealing with are well trained. They are not terrorists, they are insurgents.
All along we have been reactive, if we are not proactive we cannot deal with it.
“I have been in the fore front of saying we must dialogue with them but I think we must take the battle to a level where they also must beg for dialogue.
“We cannot do this unless the locals on group there corporate with the members of the armed forces.”
The Senate therefore adopted the prayers of the motion which includes urging the Federal Government and all security agencies to intensify efforts aimed at rescuing the abducted girls and seeking the cooperation of the United Nations Security Council and other international organisations in Nigeria’s battle against insurgents.