The CHI in CHIbok and DapCHI and the ills of NGOs, by Hassan Gimba

When 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped on the night of April 14, 2014, from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, the nation was outraged, not only because it happened but that it took the federal government, which had the control of the security agencies, 18 days to wake up to the reality and come off its self denial.

But even at that, deep down, the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan government believed the Governor Kashim Shettima administration conspired with parents and Boko Haram (or whatever) to abduct the girls so as to ‘tarnish his image’ in order to deal a political blow to him ahead of the 2015 elections. By the time the government decided to act, more than 100 of the girls had been distributed by their captors to their bosses, who lived like the Indian Dakus we watched in Indian films, in the deep recesses of the Sambisa Forest, which stretches from deep within Nigeria to the Central African Republic. The forest is more than 18 times the size of Lagos state.
While few of the girls escaped their captors and found their way home, a number of the girls have been rescued by soldiers while many others regained their freedom through negotiations that cost Nigeria millions in foreign currency. And while some are believed to have died during battle or suicide bombings, many are still with their captors and remain unaccounted for. And for those that have rejoined their families, the fact remains that their innocence had been broken, and most importantly, their confidence in their country has been shot to pieces.
You see, the way the innocent child sees its father as a super hero who will give it protection is the way the innocent citizen considers his country. The truth is those Chibok girls have realised the hard way that in Nigeria, no matter what happens, life goes on. Conversely, those under the captivity of the terrorists, being of impressionable ages, would have seen the ‘power’ wielded by the bandits and would have possibly savoured the ‘adventure’.
Any wonder why some refused to return? They no longer have respect for a government or society that cannot protect its own. And sadly, too, the average citizen sees all this and loses hope.
And now Dapchi. For Dapchi there is a ray of hope. The ray of hope is that no girl was kidnapped; the over 100 missing girls escaped into the bushes where they are still hiding one week after their school was attacked. The ray of hope is that there is no video yet from actor Shekau most likely because he does not have the girls. President Muhammadu Buhari has sent a powerful delegation to go and ascertain the situation.
This is because the president did not smell any conspiracy in the situation. Hopefully, the situation will be salvaged. There are certain questions that agitate the mind though. Dapchi is not on the Sambisa Belt. Dapchi, in northern Yobe, is a flatland with sparse trees and one can see as far as one’s sight can reach. How can over 100 girls be abducted and conveyed across such an open field unnoticed?
What has happened to our intelligence gathering abilities, especially in a frontline state like Yobe that Boko Haram would gather, strut confidently, pick as many girls as possible and go back to base at their leisure unchallenged? President Buhari called the incidence a national disaster, but it is worse; it is a sacrilege! And what about the communities along that route? What did they do?
The governor of Yobe state complained that troops were withdrawn from Dapchi and surrounding areas before the attack. Why was it so? It was recently reported that Nigeria has acquired war planes with night vision capacity. Where were they on the night or was there no distress call?
Abubakar Shekau, the man behind such and many other unpalatable acts, seems to be everywhere and nowhere and sometimes you wonder if we really want him apprehended.
I am not referring to unconfirmed insinuations that twice he was about being overwhelmed and twice troops were halted to give him breathing space and escape channels from where he would lick his wounds, regroup his forces and return with unfathomable aggressiveness.
Now to the recent N3 million bounty placed on his head. Do bounties expire? What has happened to the November 2012 federal government’s N290 million cash reward for any information that would lead to his arrest? Or the $7 million reward the United States of America placed on him when in June 2013 it officially declared Boko Haram a terrorist organisation? But come to think of it, Shekau leads a band that is making millions in foreign currency from negotiations to release kidnap victims.
Will such paltry sum be enough to make someone risk his life considering that official protection is close to none? One can understand the dilemma facing the government. On the one hand there is the need to assuage public outcry and parents’ concern, hence the negotiations. On the other hand, the military and various intelligence agencies are finding it hard to end the menace posed by the insurgents who are being fed wiThenough seed money to recruit, train and buy more arms.
It is a Hobson’s choice for the government. But the federal government will do well to improve the response time of our soldiers, increase intelligence gathering abilities of agencies saddled with that and engage the local community in community policing. The military must really be proactive as well.
This brings me to the issue of NGOs and the dangers they pose to the North-east and ultimately Nigeria. NGOs have swooped on Maiduguri and are fast spreading their purported ‘assistance to a beleaguered’ people in the other Northeastern states.
What the NGOs actually do is to make the people more dependent on their handouts and because they throw money left, right and centre, a lot of beneficiaries – and they are plenty and increasing – would not want them to go. And as long as there are crises, the NGOs will not fold their tents and go.
Their presence will just keep increasing.
The NGOs themselves will not want the crises to abate as that would mean they will no longer access the funds that are readily available to them through donor agencies just as the donor agencies themselves will no longer get the monies made available for such by international bodies and countries in Europe and North America.
NGOs have offered employment to a lot of indigenes and are paying them hefty salaries. Accommodation that ordinarily goes, for instance, at N100,000 is being rented by NGOs for millions per annum and they even pay for years upfront. In some instances, the moral bearing of our youth is being compromised where some vices alien to our culture, tradition and upbringing are being inculcated in them.
What the federal government should look at is the Greek gift that NGOs’ interventions have become and the implications for our collective security and our future wellbeing. Also, is there an unholy linkage between Shekau, kidnapping, ransom and NGOs? Is there a franchise going on under our noses?
The federal government has intervention agencies like the Presidential Committee on the NorTheast Initiative (PCNI) which should be doing all that the NGOs claim to be doing. The federal government should empower it more and any donor agency or NGO should route its assistance through them. Nigerians in the North-east have suffered a lot already. We should not allow anyone with sinister motives to make capital out of their misery

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