27 Jan 2015

Is The Military Still Searching For Chibok Girls? - by Bayo Olupohunda

On the night of April 14, 2014, Boko Haram insurgents stormed Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, seized close to 300 schoolgirls and disappeared into the night. It’s been 10 months since the abduction, the girls have not been found. 

The abduction, which provoked global outrage, gave rise to a global advocacy movement, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. In the wake of the abduction, the world seemed to stand still as the global community, world leaders and celebrities joined the campaign for the release of the girls.

Amidst the global outcry and outpouring of support, the once obscure village of Chibok, in Nigerian northeast was suddenly thrust into global consciousness. A lot has happened in the last 10 months. As the international community and local campaigners continue to demand action from the Nigerian government and its security forces, one question that I had long pondered on is if the Nigerian military is still searching for the girls.

In the months since the abduction, I have seen how the world and the #BringbackOurGirls campaigners led by the irrepressible Oby Ezekwesili had continued to mount pressure on the Jonathan administration to do everything it can to ensure that the girls are returned to their loved ones. But one question that has not been addressed is if the Nigerian government through its military is still searching for the girls. As I reflect over the question, I have come to the hard but painful conclusion that the Jonathan administration may have long given up on the search for the girls. Indeed, the search may have stopped as soon as it started. Any contrary statement by this government is just to save face.

I believe the search for the girls has been abandoned a long time ago. My conclusion is informed by the events that had played out after the abduction. Any Nigerian who believes our military is still searching for the girls is either ignorant of the prevailing facts or living in denial. While it may be painful to realise that those innocent girls are now forcefully married to terrorists or being used as sex slaves, we have to accept the hard truth that their rescue is not dependent on the military. The Jonathan government and its military have long given up on the search for the girls. In fact, this government and its military have moved on. To them, those advocating the girls’ return are just irritants. Why do I think the government has long given up on the search?

Soon after the abduction, the Jonathan administration never believed the girls were abducted. The President’s handlers had promoted the conspiracy theory that the abduction was a scam to embarrass President Goodluck Jonathan by some elements in the North out to sabotage the Presidency. It is these same elements who have long promoted a widely held view that Boko Haram is a Northern creation even when it was evident that the insurgency had long existed before the President came on board. Now, let’s look at this way; if the President who is the commander-in-chief did not believe there was an abduction, why do we still think the military will be motivated to search for the girls? Long before Jonathan asked the international community and the United States for military assistance, the military had addressed the media that it knew where the girls were located. While Nigerians had wondered why the military would be so na├»ve as to divulge such classified information publicly, it later turned out that they were only playing to the gallery because of pressure. But it wasn’t long before the truth came out – that they had no idea where the girls are. Even the President said he had no information about where the girls are kept.

It will be recalled that the US had responded to the request for assistance by providing security and intelligence experts who were to work with the Nigerian military in advisory capacity. The now moribund assistance was the closest our military ever got to searching for the girls. For a while, American drones provided surveillance over Sambissa Forest and vast areas of the North-East in search for the girls. The Americans were said to have provided intelligence which was reportedly ignored by the Nigerian military. The assistance later stalled and the Americans returned home. The drones no longer flew over the Sambissa Forest.

One question that had become imperative since the botched foreign assistance is: How has the military been searching for the girls? With poor communication, lack of surveillance capabilities, access and absence of collaboration with neighbouring countries, how is the military conducting its search? In the closing months of 2014, the government announced it had entered into negotiations with some Boko Haram negotiators who they believed were in contact with the insurgents. That again turned out to be a scam. It later turned out that the government and its military had been conned. Indeed, what the failed negotiations had revealed to Nigerians was that the Jonathan administration in its desperation, had been dealing with impostors. This shows that it had become desperate and had no idea about how to proceed with the search.

The government, through its military, had become hostage to its own incompetence. Since the abduction, it had become clear that the military lacked the capacity to address the entire terror war or use advanced intelligence to end the frequent abduction in the North-East. While the abduction of the Chibok girls may have gained international attention, there had been several abductions before and after the Chibok abduction. In fact, in 2014 alone, statistics put the number of those abducted at 528 people. Many of them are young boys, girls and women who are being married off to the terrorists as sex slaves or used as suicide bombers. In October 2014, 60 women were abducted in Adamawa State. In January 2015, 40 boys were reportedly kidnapped in Borno. Many more have been seized as Boko Haram continues to raid villages and towns in the troubled areas.

Apart from the girls, how many of those abducted have been rescued by the military? Why then do we think the girls will be rescued? What is the difference between the girls and hundreds of children and women that are daily being seized by Boko Haram? The truth must be told. The military has neither the capacity nor the wherewithal to stem the tide of abductions in the North-East. Does it not surprise Nigerians that the President has been avoiding any mention of the girls in his campaign? Only in Maiduguri did he mention the girls as part of his campaign rhetoric. What does this tell us? The search for the girls has long been forgotten. If the military has not rescued anyone abducted by Boko Haram in the last six years, why then do we still believe it will rescue the Chibok girls? Like I have written on this column before, let’s just hope those abducted so far find the courage to escape or that Boko Haram will have a change of heart.

2 comments:

  1. For where ? They have been forgotten

    ReplyDelete
  2. HELL NO!! THE GIRLS ARE THE ONE SEARCHING FOR THE MILITARY NOW.

    ReplyDelete

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