CrimeWorld Editorial Board
PERHAPS the high-point of the menace of Boko Haram insurgency in the country especially, the North Eastern Nigeria is the reported abduction from their hostel of 276 secondary school girls preparing to write their Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination SSCE sometime in April 2014. The girls who are now women we heard were to write their physics papers the morning preceding their abduction to unknown destinations. They had been in captivity for about three years now before their release in tranches; the recent being the release of 82 of them on May 6, 2017. It is an incontestable fact that in the heat of the insurgency, the Islamist renegades did abduct women and girls at will from various villages in Taraba and Yobe into their camps to meet their sexual desires. However, what has remained a somewhat miff to discerning minds is the circumstances surrounding the abduction and ‘loading’ of such a large number of human beings in either 18 seater or luxury buses unruffled by security operatives and driven to the forest of Sambisa. We also heard about 57 of the abductees escaped into the bush when one of the trucks conveying them to the forest broke down. So if the figure is correct, the number of girls who the insurgents took into captivity was 216 and out of this number the Muhammadu Buhari-led government with stout assistance from the government of Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross and private negotiators secured the release of 160 of the girls. As it stands, it may be correct to say that only 56 of the girls are still being held captive; all things being equal. This is salutary. In the mean time, we urge the government to rev up its intelligence architecture and military might including negotiation if necessary, to secure the freedom of the remaining girls under Abubakar Shekau’s grip. What is however, disturbing in the evolving scenarios which of course, has raised question mark is the fact that though we were given a graphic picture of how the hapless girls were lined up from their hostel into whatever means of transportation and while they journeyed into the unknown, one of the trucks broke down and 57 of the girls disappeared into thin air under the watchful eyes of those bloodthirsty insurgents, we are yet to know who counted and gave the accurate figure of the girls that escaped onto the bush including how they wandered to safety. Again, months into the abduction, Abubakar Shekau had boasted in a video that went viral on the social media that he would give some of the girls in marriage while others would be sold out. It is therefore, interesting to note that this has not been the case. Perhaps more important is the question of where the girls were being kept for the past three years, how they were fed, took their bath and how they managed women’s monthly ‘tears of disappointed ovaries’. Initially, we were told the girls were camped at the Sambisa forest but the military through ceaseless air strikes, bombarded the forest without the sight of one single girl; and now, we hear that the recent release and handover of the 82 girls took place at the border post of Nigeria and Cameroun. From the pictures we saw of the released 82 girls, it is clear that they looked far from being hungry and underfed. The government of Borno State under Kashim Settima as passionate as he may claim to be in securing the lives and properties of the people of the state needs to tell Nigerians more than what he has told us about the abduction and release of the girls respectively.
Recall that though, the President Ebele Jonathan-led government initially treated the abduction of the schools girls flippantly as has become a general belief, but he was vehemently chided by his traducers for opting to negotiate with the Islamic militants and perhaps, offer amnesty for penitent insurgents with a view to securing the release of the girls. But what we now see in the present administration which intensely opposed the option of negotiation and loudmouthed in the twilight of its assumption of office to do everything within three months to secure the release of the girls is the swapping of major Boko Haram Commanders plus payment of huge sums of money in hard currency to secure the same release of the girls. Negotiation and swapping of prisoners of war is practiced globally. Israel did it over the decades by exchanging 7,000 captives for the release of 16 of its soldiers as contained in TIME. Even the United States of America under Barak Obama did free 5 senior Taliban Commanders just to secure the freedom of an American Sergeant, Bowe Bergdahl in 2014. However, paying ransom in addition to swapping prisoners of war is something that needs critical appraisal. Though the federal government through its Communication Minister, Lai Mohammed has flatly denied that it paid Euros 2 million, but a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation BBC said the release of the 82 girls would have been much earlier but for the reluctance of President Muhammadu Buhari approving the money as brokered by a private negotiator, Zanna Mustapha. Again, this boils down to the fact that contrary to wide belief, the Boko Haram insurgents are not faceless after all. It is sad that Nigerians play politics with nearly every facet of life; but playing politics with the lives of over 200 girls is a dangerous phenomenon.
Whereas, we congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for the number of girls so far released, we are nonetheless, worried that these swapped Boko Haram Commanders and the money paid may turn a snare against us. While applauding the combined efforts of the Nigerian troops, government of the USA, Israel, France, UK, Australia in degrading the Islamist militants, it will be erroneous to roll out the drums now thinking the war against terror in Nigeria is over. Boko Haram insurgency is a war of ideology and therefore, should not be treated with kid gloves. The fight against globally terrorism is a long haul that demands stringent and tactical measures to winning it. Islamist militants do not give up on their beliefs. They rather chose to die than renege on their ideology. We must take a cue from the activities of the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS continuous control of strategic places in Syria against intentional campaigns respectively. The US forces dislodged the Taliban in 2001 in Afghanistan but they soon sprang up to claim control of about 34 out of the 400 districts in the country. While still resolute in decapitating the Islamist militants, the federal government should as a matter of urgency equally borrow a leaf from other developed countries to ensure that the released girls are rehabilitated. For three years they had been traumatized and disintegrated from the cuddles of their parents and government. The time to show them affection is now even as efforts for the release of the remaining 56 girls should be intensified.
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