Wednesday, 23 July 2014

FG Actions Over Rescue Operation Of The Chibok Girls

Compelled by the national and international embarrassment following federal government’s earlier denial that the Chibok Girls was kidnapped by the Boko Haram sect, President Jonathan set up and inaugurated a Presidential Fact-finding Committee on the Abduction of the Chibok Schoolgirls. In its report submitted to the president on June 20, 2014, the committee noted that 276 female students were abducted after 119 female students had escaped from the school during the attack by Boko Haram. It added that 57 female students escaped from the deadly nest of the insurgents after the abduction, while 219 female students remained unaccounted for.

While government has not been very open on what it is doing to rescue the girls after the committee confirmed that the girls were indeed abducted, within the period government has achieved a lot of successes in the war against terrorism in general.

Government is developing an advantage in weapons and reconnaissance capabilities. Two divisions of the Nigerian army are so far focused on the fight with troops on the ground. These divisions have captured some senior-level Boko Haram commanders used by the sect as spies and treasury officials. The arrest of the kingpins have yielded valuable intelligence which has further unearthed armouries retrieved recently in Balmo Forest used as one of its strongholds in Bauchi.

In mid-July alone, the federal government forces apprehended three top-level Boko Haram targets. One of the masterminds of the April 14 bombing of the Nyanya (Abuja) bus station that killed about 100 civilians, Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche was arrested by Nigerian officials after securing his extradition from Sudan. Ogwuche is also accused of leading recruitment efforts for Boko Haram from his base in Sudan. Nigerian Intelligence officials have long been monitoring Nigerian extremists training with Islamist groups in both Somalia and Sudan, where al-Qaeda has a strong presence. Ogwuche is now in Nigerian custody and will face prosecution.

A Boko Haram chief of intelligence was picked up and is now helping investigation. Mohammed Zakari, a Boko Haram leader known as the “Chief Butcher” was captured during the Nigerian forces raid on Balmo Forest, an operation that ended up expelling Boko Haram insurgents completely from the area, effectively denying the terrorists a notorious haven and launch point for attacks.

The federal government is also cooperating with and empowering local populations across Nigeria in the battle against the insurgents, with the recent security forces’ successes resulting from this government-citizen collaboration. It was this synergy that led to the uncovering of Boko Haram threat against the Abuja transportation system. The public was alerted and casualties were avoided. Similarly, following a tip-off, Nigerian police uncovered and prevented a bomb attack near a school in Gombe.

Aware of the fact that soft power is crucial in the battle against Boko Haram and that force alone will not defeat the insurgents, the Jonathan Administration is implementing a comprehensive programme of assistance to support, protect, and empower local communities, with a special focus on the most vulnerable areas of the country. These programmes include the Safe Schools Initiative developed to safeguard school children in states under emergency rule by strengthening the security of educational facilities.

These measures include providing perimeter fences, housing for teachers, community policing and school guards, alarm systems, and communication equipment. The federal government is also working with state governors, community leaders, teachers and parents to identify and remedy the vulnerabilities that put school children at risk.

The Safe Schools Initiative is a collective effort in which the federal government’s spending is being matched fund for fund by the private sector to the tune of $20 million. While the overall goal is to create a fund of $100 million to support this programme, pledges already received so far include support from the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other donors.

The Presidential Committee on Victims Support called “Nigeria Terrorism Victims Support Foundation” inaugurated by the president last week is also a case in point. It is essentially targeting to raise $1 billion from a public private partnership in funding. The presidential initiative will mobilise resources and administer appropriate support to victims of insurgency and Boko Haram terror activities across the country.

The committee is chaired by General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) who himself is an accomplished business man, philanthropist and patriot with similar public causes adjudged to be resoundingly transparent and enjoying enormous goodwill. While inaugurating the committee last week, Jonathan noted that there is no hiding place for the insurgents because their days are numbered.

He said, “For those who take pleasure in seeing innocent human beings in pains, to see limbs being shattered and blood flowing in all direction after terror attacks, we say, you shall have no hiding place. Nigerians will expose you. The people of conscience around the world have rejected you.

“We appreciate the support we are getting from foreign countries and the co-operation we are getting from our neighbours. This has given us more fillip and we are confident that the days of Boko Haram are numbered. It is now just a matter of time”.

Claiming that the nation’s war against terrorism had been gathering momentum, the president lamented, however that the activities of the sect had been receiving prominence in the media than that of the federal government. Jonathan urged all Nigerians to stand together in support of security agencies against terrorism, adding that security agencies were working night and day under difficult circumstances.

He said, “It is unfortunate that when our security personnel prevent 1000 attacks, it is the one attack that succeeds that makes headline news and tends to portray our security agencies as not doing enough. It is part of the realities we have to deal with. We owe Nigerians nothing but victory over terror.

“The life of every Nigerian is precious and we will continue to work round the clock to put an end to this insurgency.

For those who have been victims, they need comfort. They need succour. We cannot replace the life of a child that has been snuffed out. We cannot replace the lives of men and women who have been killed. We cannot return broken limbs to their original state. We cannot take away the trauma that people have been put through.

“Their memories are scarred, some for the rest of their lives, over what they knew nothing about. The best we can do in this circumstance is to offer them a shoulder to lean on and to stretch out our hands of fellowship to them and tell them we feel their pains and share in their sorrow”.

On the long term, the federal government is developing a comprehensive economic empowerment plan for the north-east region tagged the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE). The need to focus and support girl-child education and other educational initiatives has also received tremendous global support. 125 almajiri schools have been established under this initiative targeting millions of out-of-school children who are currently disadvantaged.

In addition, the president has initiated a number of strategies which have generated international solidarity over the rescue of the Chibok girls and the war against terrorism. For instance, at the instance of the president, a meeting of presidents of Chad, Cameroun, Niger Republic and Benin Republic was held in Paris. This has successfully created strong regional cooperation in the fight against cross-border crime and terrorism, which is also to ensure that the girls are not taken out of Nigeria as widely rumoured. It also led to the establishment of Regional Intelligence Unit for the purpose of information sharing and joint security operations in the area. Similarly, a multi-national Joint Task Force was established as a fall-out of the Lake Chad Basin Commission Partnership.

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