Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State has said he did not call former President Goodluck Jonathan to brief him after Boko Haram abducted over 200 school girls from Chibok, because he knew that security agencies must have briefed the president of the development the day it happened.
Mr. Shettima said as president, Mr. Jonathan had wide resources to keep him abreast of serious national security issues on a daily basis.
Mr. Shettima was responding to an inquiry from Premium Times which sought to determine why the governor waited for almost three weeks expecting the president to reach out to him over a major incident that happened in his domain.
The governor had said recently that Mr. Jonathan took 19 days to telephone him to ask about the abduction.
He made the remark while receiving former President Olusegun Obasanjo whom he praised as having a better record of contacting governors of crisis-prone states on a daily basis.
“In our own case, Your Excellency, after the Chibok abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in April, 2014, it took 19 days for me to receive a call from the Presidency,” Mr. Shettima said to Mr. Obasanjo.
Analysts have accused the governor of not also taking the security of his state serious enough to have to wait for the president to call, and not contact him immediately.
In his response to Premium Times on Saturday, Mr. Shettima, who is currently attending the second term inauguration of President Mahamadou Issoufou in Niger Republic, said he immediately launched efforts to rescue the girls, and became too busy to reach out to the president.
He said he knew the president must have been made aware already since there was a state of emergency already in place in the state long before the kidnap.
Mr. Shettima spoke through his Special Adviser on Communication, Isa Gusau, who assured us his comments were the governor’s position.
Mr. Gusau said he “had it on good authority that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was well briefed by security agencies soon after the abduction and this is to be expected given the magnitude and for the fact that as at that time, Borno was under a State of Emergency as declared by the president, which made him directly in charge of security issues in Borno and happenings there”.
“So, when the Chibok abduction took place on April 14, 2014, Governor Kashim Shettima who is Chairman of the State Security Councils remained within Borno State as he was expected to do, to build public confidence and presided over series of daily security council meetings held at the Government House in Maiduguri to analyze the situation and developments, to identify strategies and to coordinate deployment of security responses to containing the emergency,” he said.
Mr. Shettima also said that the normal practice over the years in Nigeria was that the president would be the one to call a state governor to find out how he could help if there was an emergency situation.
“The practice in Nigeria is that when emergency security situations happen in any of the 36 States, the president does not rely on governors for security briefings, he relies on daily situation report and also he invites service chiefs and heads of key intelligence establishments like the Department of State Security Services and National Intelligence Agency as well, for information that may include what a governor may not even be in position to know because there are certain classified information that only the president is told even when they affect a particular state whose governor is kept in the dark.
“What happens in our unwritten protocol in Nigeria is that, in event of major security problems, it is the president that summons a governor or calls him on phone or directs the Vice President to call on his behalf for sympathy, seek additional information where necessary and to assure or discuss aspects that require Federal intervention. Governors don’t rush to the Villa during emergencies, they remain in their respective States to provide leadership because their presence means so much in managing situations.”
Mr. Shettima said Mr. Jonathan could not have feigned ignorance of the development because he had made several media interviews and offered a reward of ₦50 million for accurate information about the whereabouts of the girls.
“After a security meeting on April 16, 2014, Governor Kashim Shettima had addressed the Press same day, (April 16, 2014) which was two days after the Chibok incident during which he announced a N50million reward on information that could lead to freeing the schoolgirls and this was widely reported by the media within and outside Nigeria. So, there was general public knowledge about the incident not to talk of the president knowing about it.
“The Governor simply concentrated on working with security agencies, the civilian JTF, hunters and local community leaders in Chibok on finding ways of freeing the schoolgirls. Till date, only Governor Kashim Shettima and his wife visited Chibok after that incident, no body went from the Federal level to meet the parents throughout the Jonathan era.”
On allegations that the he was complicit in the abduction of the girls because he ordered WAEC officials to proceed with the exams in defiance of all security warnings, Mr. Shettima dismissed the allegation as “malicious”.
“The issue of saying there were reports against holding WAEC in the Chibok School was just a propaganda orchestrated by actors under the Jonathan administration in order to shift blame on Borno State Government and if you cast your mind back, you would understand that the whole propaganda only began in May, 2014, when wife of President Barack Obama was shown participating in the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ global protest which made the Jonathan Presidency to come under criticism from the international community. The FG didn’t show any concern before May, 2014 whereas the abduction took place on April 14, 2014.
“To start with if it was true that the Government Secondary School, Chibok, was considered unsafe to the point that the Borno State Government was warned against holding the exams there, why would parents of the school who live within the same “unsafe” Chibok, allow their children to be in that school at that time? If the Borno Government was reckless enough to care less of the safety of the gilrs what about parents of the girls? They also didn’t care or what?
“Truth is that Chibok was one of the places that had no known security threats as at the time the abduction took place. Chibok had virtually no record of attacks before that incident. No one anticipated that attack just like no Nigerian could have anticipated attacks on the secured Police Headquarters in Abuja by the Boko Haram in 2012.
“Before Belgium was attacked recently, it wasn’t among areas in Europe vulnerable to terrorist attacks. As events have shown, terrorists seem to target areas less expected of them to attack than places considered vulnerable. If GSS Chibok was marked as unsafe, the WAEC wouldn’t have sent their officials there to conduct the exams neither would parents have lived in Chibok. Everyone would have fled. We all know that WAEC had officials conducting exams in Chibok while residents didn’t flee the Communities. We have reasons to believe that the Boko Haram targeted Chibok because it was one of the places they were not expected to attack given records of their presence and attacks across Borno State.”
Mr. Shettima, however, acknowledged that a security alert did go out prior to the incident, but quickly added that it was ambiguous.
“It is however true that there were security concerns raised by the WAEC on the need for security to be provided in all examination centres without any emphasis on GSS, Chibok.
“In a letter addressed to the late Deputy Governor of Borno State, Zannah Umar Mustapha, who was presiding over the matter, with reference number MD/ZO/OA/10/203, dated March 19, 2014, signed by F.M Gaiya, zonal coordinator, the WAEC had raised issues of security which it did by requesting the Borno Government to provide security in all the centres in Maiduguri, Biu, Askira, Lassa and Chibok, which the Borno State Government promptly acted upon by writing a letter to the Borno State Commissioner of Police request adequate security in all examination centres (as the attachment here would show). The WAEC was never specific on Chibok because there was no fears of imminent attack on Chibok and if there was, WAEC wouldn’t have contemplated the exam there at least for safety of its own staff.
“The Borno State Government had in response, written a letter dated March 20, 2014, with reference number SEC/282/GH/T.I/109, signed by the Chief Admin Officer, Special Services (Security) at the Government House in Maiduguri, M.M Gana, addressed to the then Borno State Police Commissioner, Lawal Tanko requesting for security to be provided to all examination centres in Borno State, that include Chibok but also without any specific fears on imminent attack on Chibok.
“A Presidential Fact-finding committee on the Chibok abduction which was set up by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan which had members including friends of President Jonathan and serving security officials had examined all documents and correspondences between the Borno Government and WAEC and I don’t think anyone doubts the sincerity of Governor Kashim Shettima in all that happened.
“It is unfortunate that the abduction took place and so was the politics that was brought into it. Governor Shettima recollected that matter because he was dealing with President Olusegun Obasanjo whose voice has been consistent on the Chibok schoolgirls abduction.”