The Nigerian military has said despite its inability to free the Chibok girls, troops fighting Boko Haram terrorists deserve commendation and encouragement, having recorded major gains including “daily rescue of human beings.”
In a telephone chat with PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday, Defense spokesperson, Rabe Abubakar, said “our efforts and major gains” should not be overshadowed by the grim situation of still having Chibok girls in the terrorists’ captivity.
“Boko Haram abduction has reduced by 99 percent, except in very remote villages where they harass citizens while looking for food,” Mr. Abubakar, a Brigadier-General, said.
“Every day we rescue human beings. There’s no day we don’t kill terrorists. We launched operation crackdown on Sambisa. On Thursday, we rescued over 300 human beings.
“From day one we moved to Maiduguri to establish command and control centre there, we have been rescuing human beings on daily basis. Many things have been done. We are giving our best commitment.
“Troops should he supported and encouraged, not otherwise because of these (Chibok) girls still in captivity.”
On April 14, 2014, 276 school girls -with 58 rescued – were abducted in Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram. The abduction sparked blaze of global outrage, and birthed BringBackOurGirls movement, campaigning for the rescue of the girls.
Police officers last week blocked the campaigners who were marching to the State House to demand President Muhammadu Buhari ensure freedom for the Chibok girls.
But the Defense spokesperson urged the movement to be “holistic” and “not to focus on Chibok girls alone.”
He urged them to appreciate the success of freeing other Nigerians “with one life and parents as well”.
“Holistic in the sense that we should not just concentrate on Chibok girls. There are others we have rescued. Those are like any other human beings, they have parents as well, and they have one life.”
Mr. Abubakar said one of the victims rescued recently had been with the Boko Haram for four years.
On the Chibok girls, he said “Boko Haram may be using them as human shield but we are equal to the task. Nobody is more committed to solving this problem than the armed forces.”
The spokesperson said he could not give a definite period of success of rescue operations. He said with ongoing operations, hope of rescuing all “Boko Haram captives, not just Chibok girls” should be kept alive.
“The operation is still going on. Our soldiers are there and we are on daily basis rescuing human beings. On daily basis we destroy IEDS they planted on the road, on daily basis we kill terrorists.”
The general expressed disdain for “some people somewhere in Abuja or Lagos in air condition, talking as if they were not part and parcel of this country.”
“That’s the most annoying thing,” he said.
“Even if the constitution gives everybody the right to talk, there must he high level of decorum especially when some people are showing greatest commitment towards the rescue of these girls and every other persons.
He said the military had been “extremely careful” not put lives of the Chibok girls in jeopardy.
“We must take necessary caution. We must be very careful so as not to jeopardise the lives of these girls. We are doing what we are doing with maximum caution. We don’t want to put their lives in jeopardy, but some people ignore all these things. How many years did it take US to get Osama Laden, just one person, with all their resources?”
The size of the Sambisa forest, believed to be the base of the Boko Haram and location of the Chibok girls, is a disadvantage in the war, Mr. Abubakar said.
“Sambisa is 67,000 sq kilometre. Even if you deploy one million troops there, it’s not enough.”
“The military share the pains of the Chibok parents and every Nigerian,” he said, adding that, “security matter should separated from politics and sentiments.”