Wednesday, 23 July 2014

We Are Being Careful For The Safety Of Chibok Girls – DHQ

The director of information, Defence Headquarters, Major General Chris Olukolade speaks to our Defence Correspondent, BAYO OLADEJI, on the efforts being made by the military to rescue the schoolgirls alive.

Since the abduction of those innocent students of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, some 100 days ago, what efforts are being made to bring them back alive?

The entire military establishment and security agencies, as you are aware, are so concerned about these girls; like all Nigerians, we have a stake in the situation; aside from being concerned professionally, we are also emotionally concerned as parents. Our plan is to have these girls back. The priority of this mission is that we have them back alive and well, and all hands are on deck to ensure their safety.

All our patrols have been airborne, and our foot patrols as well as the vehicular patrols are aimed at securing the vicinity of where we believe these children are being kept. We have air patrols that are airborne regularly to keep surveillance over the entire area. All our communication facilities are being committed to coordinating the activities of over 2,000 men that have been tasked to watch out for these girls. The entire communication facilities of the Army, Navy and the Air Force have been committed to this; and the multi-national task force and the neighbouring countries have also been on the lookout should anything happen.

We also have the active involvement of our foreign partners, the US, Britain, France, and Israel. We have been exchanging ideas and intelligence together; there is a concerted effort to establish a unit for the coordination of all the intelligence required for the operation.

These are some of the activities going on to ensure that these girls are brought back alive. It is our priority to have them back alive and well. Every other thing is geared towards that. We are still hopeful it would bring result.

An average Nigerian cannot not understand why it is taking the military this long to free these girls. Any explanation for this?

The issue of hostages is always very complex to resolve, and where it happened and it was not well managed, it has led to fatality which we do not want. Hostages on some occasions took years to resolve; however, that is not our wish, but we still need extraordinary caution to ensure that all we have back are the girls alive and not their corpses.

This is why it appears as if we are slow, but definitely, they will be brought back alive. I understand their concern and we are equally concerned, but let me assure you that those girls would be brought back alive and well.

Why are the terrorists still attacking despite the presence of the troops? What effort is being made to stop them?

We would continue to step up the robustness of our patrols which have been very effective all along; we are increasing the involvement of the intelligence in the affected states, and the essence is to restrict their movements in carrying out the attacks and assaults. As time goes on, more efforts will be added towards that and they will be forced to stop the attacks.

Few days ago while speaking during the Chief of Army Staff Conference, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah disclosed that the military had lost some officers and men in the counter-insurgency operation. What is the number of the casualty to date?

Well, at the right time, we would make this known to the public. It is just enough to disclose that men have been lost, but for policy and strategic reasons, it is premature to disclose that now. We would keep the figure to our chest for now.

The initial expectation of the people was that the coming in of the developed nations would hasten the freedom of the Chibok girls and put to an end the terror attacks. But this has not been so. What is happening?

A lot is happening in terms of interaction with our foreign partners over exchange of intelligence and ideas; actually that is what normally drives operation. The level of intelligence gathering that is available matters a lot in any military operation. It is helping us in achieving our original goal which is to reduce the casualty considering the fact that we are dealing with terrorists who are irrational.

Is Nigeria getting any support from our neighbouring countries like Cameroon and Chad?

Situation is changing of recent. This would depend on treaty, international relations, and agreement between Nigeria and our neighbours, but as of today, it has come to the understanding of everyone that terrorism is a global threat and nations are working together to put an end to it. At different levels, talks are ongoing and this would translate into securing the sub-region and the entire continent from the terrorists.

What message do you have for the parents of those Chibok girls as they spend 100 days in the captivity of the terrorists?

We are with them; we share their pains; we are committed to the task of bringing back their daughters home alive and well. All things being equal, they would soon have their children back. And all of us will have cause to rejoice. We know what they are going through and they would soon have cause to have a reunion with their children.

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