4 May 2014

Nigeria: Where Are the Missing Schoolgirls?

Tightly packed inside trucks designed to carry cattle and cargo, hundreds of refugees arrived at the UNHCR-run Minawao Refugee Camp in northeastern ... ( Resource: As Nigerians Flee Boko Haram Terror, Cameroon Deploys Elite Forces )


While the government insists that the military and the security forces are searching for the girls, it however seems to us that it is not doing enough to rescue them from their captors.

It is quite worrisome that more than two weeks after the abduction of over 200 female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by suspected Boko Haram gunmen; the whereabouts of the girls are still a matter of conjecture. While the government insists that the military and the security forces are searching for the girls, it however seems to us that it is not doing enough to rescue them from their captors.

Indeed, there are conflicting statements on the whereabouts of the teenage girls and their abductors. While some believe that the schoolgirls have been taken to the neighbouring states of Cameroun and Chad, some of the girls, according to media reports, have been forced to marry the militants. Yet not a few still believe that the abductors are still holding their captives in the dreaded Sambisa forest bordering Nigeria and Chad. Moreover, the parents of the kidnapped students and Nigerians in general have been left to rely on rumours, as government officials and military authorities have said very little about the movements of the abductors and subsequent military action to track down the suspected Boko Haram gunmen.

Certainly, this Newspaper believes that there is a great deal of anger in the country now, as most Nigerians seem to have the impression that while Chibok is mourning, Abuja is sitting pretty. Of course, this is a false sense of security on the part of government and the political leadership. It is important that the government does not give in to terrorists and should also not create the impression that the plight of the missing girls is ignored by it and the political elite, most of whom are believed to send their children to schools abroad.

We are of the view that the failure to rescue these teenage girls after more than two weeks of their abduction is already an embarrassment to both the military and the federal government. Much as we do not wish to accept it, the thinking in the international community is that the Boko Haram seems to be winning the tactical combat against the country's military. Or how do you explain the bewilderment of a federal senator, Ahmad Zaina, when he said at the floor of he senate that " what bothered me most is that whenever I informed the military where these girls were, after two or three days they were moved from that place to another. Still, I would go back and inform them on new developments."

We agree with the Senate President, David Mark, that there is need for a proactive measure on the part of the military insurgency in the North East. This is because as the senate president noted, "the people we are dealing with are not just locals. They are well trained and they know what they want." Indeed, a school of thought believes that since Boko Haram forbids western education, the fundamentalist group may be targeting schools to fulfill its objective of not allowing western education in the North of Nigeria.

Nevertheless, as stated in our recent editorials, the military needs to intensify its intelligence-gathering, encourage information sharing and equip the soldiers on the frontline to be able to respond quickly to the Boko Haram attacks. As a matter of fact, we urge President, Goodluck Jonathan to visit these soldiers in the North East. Perhaps, this may boost their morale as they confront the insurgents.

Much more is the fact that as the nation's defence cracks have become more noticeable, perhaps the government should consider foreign assistance to dislodge the Boko Haram activities in the North east and subsequently rescue these teenage girls from their abductors. Indeed, the government must not allow these innocent teenage girls return as body bags.

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