14 March 2018

Nigeria: Buhari Promises Return of Kidnapped Schoolgirls

Photo: BashirAhmaad/Twitter
Dapchi school

Nigeria's president, in a visit to the country's troubled northeast, on Monday predicted success in what he described as relentless efforts to release more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

The jihadists are still holding 112 of the 219 students they abducted from the Borno state town of Chibok in April 2014, and also 110 pupils taken from Dapchi, in Yobe state, in February.

On a visit to the Yobe state capital, Damaturu, President Muhammadu Buhari said he had "no doubt" the Dapchi girls would be rescued or released.

"I can reassure parents, Nigerians and the international community that we will do all that is within our power to make sure that the girls are brought back safely to their families.

"There will be no rest till the last girl, whether from Chibok or Dapchi, is released.

"The girls, like all our citizens, must enjoy unhindered freedom and pursue their legitimate aspirations."

Similarities have been drawn between the two abductions, after heavily-armed Islamist militants were able to take so many pupils without any resistance from security forces.

Buhari's predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was lambasted for his delayed and lacklustre response to Chibok, which happened as Boko Haram rampaged across the northeast, seizing territory.

The Dapchi kidnapping occurred despite repeated claims from Buhari, his government and the military that Boko Haram was a spent force, as a result of a sustained counter-insurgency.

Nigeria's political opposition has called into question the extent of those claims and also urged him to meet parents of the missing Dapchi girls.

His visit to Yobe was part of a tour of states hit by unrest.

On Tuesday, the #BringBackOurGirls pressure group gave the government a seven-day deadline to free the remaining 112 Chibok girls and 110 Dapchi girls or face court action.

The group, which was set up in the wake of Chibok, accused the government of "incompetence and carelessness" and would sue it for criminal negligence if the girls were not freed.

In his speech, Buhari said he was aware of "orchestrations by some evil elements to take advantage of the development to score cheap political points".

"The government, under my watch, will continue to maintain normalcy and ensure that incidents of this nature (mass kidnappings) are stopped," he added.

"Be assured that measures are being put in place to achieve these objectives."

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