One hundred and eighty-four days since their abduction by the vicious Boko Haram sect, the search for the 200plus Chibok schoolgirls has proceeded without much success. We have been told severally that the whereabouts of the girls are now known but a rescue operation must not be hurried in order not to endanger their lives. Sadly, as we bid our time the sect is killing and abducting many more women.
We recall with pain that the responsibility of protection of the lives and property of citizens from internal and external aggressors lies squarely with the police and the military. When hapless individuals, moved by agony and frustration, and the seeming failure of the law enforcement agencies to protect them against itinerant gunmen, resort to self-help including standing up to much armed insurgents, it becomes a major indictment of the police and the armed forces.
Mothers of the abducted girls had reportedly resolved to head to Sambisa Forest on a deadly mission to find their children after the authorities failed to find them. This does not speak well of the armed forces, especially the intelligence experts who have not risen to the expectation of securing sections of the country from the menace of insurgents. It does not speak well of Nigeria which has a record of good performance in peace keeping operations in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Despite its feat in peace keeping and enforcement in different countries in Africa, Nigeria has had difficulty with stamping out insurgency to the extent that individuals will have to do it themselves.
The argument that the armed forces cannot use maximum force against citizens does not stand because we have had cases of extra maximum force applied without success. The Baga massacre which many allege to be extra judicial killing is a good example. Only few days ago, Amnesty International published videos showing armed men it said were Nigerian soldiers slaughtering suspected Boko Haram fighters.
To be sure, Defence Headquarters in Abuja have denied the latest AI report alleging “war crimes” against the Nigerian military and have promised an investigation.
Concerned by the fact the girls were still being held captive by their abductors with no progress to rescue them by the military, the National Security Council recently ordered the armed forces to immediately find and rescue the girls before it became too late. The order was yet an opportunity for the armed forces to redeem their image by deploying all military and intelligence resources in securing the release of the girls unscathed. Only by doing so will they win back public confidence and trust.
In a bid to achieve maximum result in the search, the armed forces should eschew all forms of politics in the drive against insecurity in the country. All the agencies involved in the search for the abducted girls should close ranks, collaborate and share information to effectively track down the insurgents and their sponsors. It is good news that the United States, the UK, Canada, France and Israel are helping in the search for the girls. We welcome this collaboration as long as it does not compromise the sovereignty of Nigeria.