Amnesty International (AI) says the Nigerian military was aware of the presence of Boko Haram insurgents in Dapchi, Yobe state, hours before 110 schoolgirls were abducted.
The organisation said its investigation revealed the security forces “failed to act” on advance warnings that a convoy of Boko Haram fighters was heading towards Dapchi on the day of the abduction.
The insurgents raided the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi on February 19, after which the schoolgirls went missing.
Amnesty said a police source disclosed that officers fled the town over the fear that Boko Haram may “overpower them”.
“Evidence available to Amnesty International suggests that there are insufficient troops deployed in the area, and that an absence of patrols and the failure to respond to warnings and engage with Boko Haram contributed to this tragedy,” Osai Ojigho, AI director in Nigeria, said in a statement.
“The sighting of an armed convoy at Futchimiram immediately sparked several phone calls to alert authorities. Sources who informed the military commander in Geidam at 2pm report that he responded to them by saying he was aware of the situation and was monitoring it.
“At around 3pm, the convoy arrived in Gumsa, where they remained till 5pm. People in Gumsa called Dapchi villagers to warn them that Boko Haram fighters were on their way. One villager who received such a call said he informed a police sergeant who promised to notify the Dapchi division police officer (DPO).
“At around 6:30pm, when residents were heading to the mosque for evening prayers, Boko Haram members entered Dapchi. Witnesses said Boko Haram fighters asked for directions to the military post, the local government office and the girls’ school.
“A police source in Dapchi told Amnesty International that officers fled because they feared that the Boko Haram fighters would overpower them.”
According to Ojigho, the organisation’s crisis advisor for military operations described the military’s response as “woefully inadequate”.
Victims and eyewitnesses interviewed were quoted to have said the insurgents arrived Dapchi at about 6:30pm and operated for one hour.
“During the attack, army officials both in Geidam and Damaturu were again alerted. The military only arrived in Dapchi one hour after Boko Haram left,” Amnesty said.
“The Nigerian authorities must investigate the inexcusable security lapses that allowed this abduction to take place without any tangible attempt to prevent it.”
TheCable was unable to get the reaction of the military to AI’s claims.
Jude Chukwu, army spokesman, did not answer calls to his phone nor respond to text messages sent.