More than 800 days they were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents, the Nigerian Army Headquarters (AHQ), on Tuesday, expressed doubts that the over 200 remaining female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were still alive.
The girls were abducted on April 14, 2014. The abduction drew condemnation from across the globe with several prominent personalities including the US First Lady, Michelle Obama among others enlisting in the campaign to free them. Even President Muhammadu Buhari, then as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 28 general election, promised to ensure their freedom.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), LtGen. Tukur Buratai, expressed the fear about the girls being alive while fielding questions at a press briefing on this year’s ‘Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2016.’ He regretted that the abduction of girls been heavily politicised to the detriment of the war against insurgency. He expressed the doubt against the facts that several captives have been freed, including the 5000 freed few days ago, all territories recovered and under the control of the army, yet, the girls were nowhere to be found.
The military, he continued, have tried to manage the war professionally, including the abduction, but it was presently at crossroads over the remaining over 200 Chibok girls. Few months ago, two girls were found, one of the two found was confirmed not to be among the students abducted from the school, but from Chibok community.
The COAS said since the war and abduction begun, the military had restricted itself and made professional efforts to rescue every abducted person including the Chibok girls, even though politicians and public rendered their efforts valueless by placing high premium on the rescue of the Chibok girls above others.
“The issue of the Chibok schoolgirls has been politicised. Ours is professional duty. We will keep looking out to rescue more. We’re still searching for them and by the grace of God, if they are still alive, we will rescue them. Today, nobody knows their whereabouts”, the Army Chief said.
“The military is very much interested in information that would enable us to rescue the girls”, he added. He reiterated that no Nigerian territory was still being held by terrorists and that troops were recording successes in their daily patrol to flush out the remnants of Boko Haram insurgents.
COAS said that in spite of the fact that the army was now in control of all territories, the civil authorities have not taken steps to resuscitate civil institutions and governance in the affected area in North East, which would have given the reassurance to the people to return to their homes and commence their normal businesses. Recall that a group that emerged soon after the abduction of the Chibok girls, the Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG, during the two year anniversary of the incident on April 14, 2016, said that as long as the girls remain missing, Nigeria is in captivity.
The group trooped to the Presidential Villa Abuja, during the anniversary to demand the rescue of the girls. Led by Oby Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education and leader of the BBOG, the group during the protest displayed placards and banners which read “Hope endures, “Bring back our girls now and alive. They lamented the nonchalant and ‘I don’t care’ attitude to rescue the girls and as well, the government’s seeming inability to do anything about it. Chanting songs of solidarity, Ezekwesili noted, “It is exactly 731 days since the girls went missing, we will not give up.” But with the fears expressed by the COAS on Tuesday, hope of the abducted Chibok girls still being rescued alive appears slim. On his Dubai property saga, Gen. Buratai said that he was not perturbed as the Federal Government had already taken position over the matter.
He said that his accusers were terrorists fighting him back, in view of the victory the Army was already exercising over terrorism. He rebuked their tactics and vowed that he would surely clear their doubts, by going after them till they are finally crushed. Buratai has been widely accused online of owning two property in Dubai, as well as using refurbished equipment in the anti-terror war with claims that they were brand new. He said that he knew that the accusations were coming in view of his decisive efforts in the war against the terrorists in the North East.
“We’ve already defeated the insurgents and terrorists on the land, now they are migrating to cyberspace and online media, but I want to assure you that we will follow these insurgents to the cyberspace and clear their doubts.” On rumour of coup, the Chief of Army Staff said that the claim by the militants is also being investigated, adding: “But we should not forget that enemy would want to paint the military black.