19 April 2017

Nigeria: It May Take Years to Free All Kidnapped Chibok Girls - Defence Minister

Photo: The Guardian
Chibok girls still missing.

Defence Minister, Mansur Dan Ali, has said it might take years to find all the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.

His statement came barely a few days after President Muhammadu Buhari, on the third anniversary of the abduction of the girls, said government was in touch with abductors of the girls.

Speaking to Voice of America's Hausa service, monitored in Yola, yesterday, Mr. Ali, a retired brigadier general, said the military was committed to finding the girls, adding that all Boko Haram's hideouts in Sambisa Forest were being searched by the military for the girls.

He likened the inability to find the girls, despite retaking most of the territory initially occupied by Boko Haram, to the US efforts to find Osama bin Laden after the invasion of Afghanistan.

He said: "It took the US up to seven, eight, up to 10 years before they could get to bin Laden. We are continuing our campaign in the Sambisa Forest in all its nooks and corners."

Also reacting to the abduction on the VOA programme, an Islamic cleric, Nuru Khalid, a member of the influential Interfaith group that tries to ensure peace between Nigerian Muslims and Christians, said failure to find the girls would translate to a victory for Boko Haram.

"We can never allow the terrorists to win the war. If they got (away) free with those girls, then they have relatively won the war," he said.

Similarly, human rights lawyer, Bulama Bukar, said the government needed to address the psychological trauma suffered by the families of the missing girls and other victims of Boko Haram brutality.

"Married women have been made single again; kids have been orphaned; homeowners are without shelter; Nigerians have been turned into refugees in their own homeland," he said.

Boko Haram kidnapped the 276 students from a government secondary school in the north-eastern town of Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014.

About 195 of the girls are still missing and are believed to be in the custody of insurgents, whose activities have caused the death of about 100,000 people since 2009.

President Buhari in his statement to mark the three years abduction of the Chibok girls had pledged that his administration will do everything possible to ensure the freedom of the girls.

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