Hope for the rescue of the Chibok girls dimmed Tuesday, following President Muhammadu Buhari’s crestfallen statement that they are held captive deep in Sambisa Forest and it would be impossible to rescue all the girls intact and alive.
Speaking in a voice that betrayed lack of confidence, President Buhari attempted to justify government’s despondence in the quest to fulfill one of its major electioneering promises: rescue the Chibok girls, by adducing that they had been married off scattered and the majority forcefully converted to Islam.
“They (Boko Haram insurgents) have scattered them, and (they) are being guarded at dispersed locations. chibok-girlsMost of the girls are Christians and were forced to embrace Islam. The sect’s cruel leaders have married some of the girls, obviously against their wish.
“Others have been left to practice their religion, but their condition could hardly be ascertained,” he said without giving concrete assurance of the likelihood of rescuing them within the time limit that he set for himself: 100 days.
Nigerian Pilot Saturday recalls that Buhari had exploited the popular demand for the rescue of the Chibok girls, who were abducted 516 days ago by Boko Haram insurgents, while they were in a dormitory preparing for the Senior Secondary School Examinations, making the rescue the major thrust of his campaigns, especially in the North-East, where he promised to bring succour to the afflicted pupils and their parents within weeks of assuming office.
However, going by Buhari’slacklustre statement on Tuesday, it is obvious that the President has demurred even in the face of loudmouthed claims of victory over the insurgents in the North-East, recently.
“Both ground and air security personnel in the SambisaForest could spot where the girls are, but since the insurgents have also kidnapped housewives and other women, no one could say whether they mixed them or how they dispersed them. But efforts are being intensified and as people know, the three neighbouring governments of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger are helping us since these suicide bombers are now going to their areas and detonating the bombs in mosques and other places.
“One of the decisions we took soon after we came into office was to change the service chiefs and we overhauled the infantry.
“We mandated the military chiefs to change the infantry, re-train them, equip them with adequate weapons and put trained and qualified commanders for the soldiers.
“The three states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa know the successes being recorded now,” he further stated in a barely veiled admittance of failure to work his initial promises of bringing members of the insurgents to their knees within days and recovering the girls.
Onlookers say his tone of voice sharply differs from the mood and tone that conveyed a message to Borno State Governor KashimShettima, last June, when parents of the affected girls paid him a courtesy visit.
In the message, President Buhari said, “These priceless schoolgirls are our daughters and they are dear to us as much as they are to you. We share the agony and sorrows you are experiencing as well as our abducted girls, as Government we are working hard to rescue our girls alive and healthy.
“I am optimistic that the girls are still alive and will soon be rescued and handed over to you, parents, by the grace of God.
“As leaders we are responsible for the welfare of our people and are accountable before the Almighty God, as such while the rescue efforts go on relentlessly, the government will continue to render assistance to you as their biological parents,”he said and assured the parents that relief is on their way soon.
It seems the promise hope was hastily made perhaps for election purposes even as the military has made far-fetched gains in the battle with the insurgents.
Nigerian Pilot Saturday recalls that terrorists abducted the Chibok girls on April 14, 2014, and at least half of the girls are still alive and are being held in various secret locations in North-East Nigeria and neighbouring countries of the Lake Chad region, according to military officials.
The report quoted a source who disclosed that military intelligence was aware that some of the girls were still with the terrorists in different locations, while some had been married off and may never be found again.
This revelation came as the division between the AbubakarShekau-led faction of the Boko Haram sect and a splinter group led by the recently acclaimed leader, MahamatDaoud, has weakened the resolve of the terrorists to carry on with their mission for an Islamic Caliphate.
According to an intelligence source, “We will never find all the girls again as intelligence findings revealed some have died, and some married away, while the rest are still divided among the terror groups in different locations both within the North-East and some neighbouring countries.”
While noting that advanced military intelligence in the last couple of months has helped to track down, dislodge, downgrade and destroy terrorist cells or enclaves, the top intelligence officer noted that the new service chiefs had adopted intelligence-led measures for the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
The officer, who pointed out the noticeable cooperation between the Nigerian Air Force, NAF and Nigerian Army, stressed that this has yielded the desired success, and had much to do with coordinated and sophisticated military intelligence.
“The aerial bombardments are more precise and decisive, hitting the right targets deep inside the Sambisa Forest, while the ground troops move with the aid of accurate and water-tight intelligence reports.
“Apart from the increasing involvement and coordination of the fighting between the army and air force, there is a highly centralised and sophisticated coordination of defence intelligence,” the source said.
In addition, the officer said there are cracks in the Boko Haram camp since the Daodu-led group broke ranks from the Shekau pro-Islamic State, ISIS group, stating that the division was taking its toll on Boko Haram members and breaking their will to fight.
Military intelligence, he said, had discovered that the new group, which is favourably disposed to negotiations with the federal government, pulled away from the Shekau-led faction when their former leader formed an alliance with ISIS.
“This was against their original plan. In fact, they were fed up with the way Shekau was going on with the terror campaign, especially the alliance with ISIS.
“So right now, there are two camps and they are no longer coordinated and active. Also, as they are increasingly in disarray, the precise and effective bombings in Sambisa Forest and other locations are driving them towards the border areas,” the source added.
President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed the claim that some of the girls have been dispersed and some, especially Christians, married off against their faith.
Buhari, in an interview on BBC Hausa service last Tuesday, also confirmed that, “They (Boko Haram insurgents) have scattered them, and they are being guarded at dispersed locations.
“Most of the girls are Christians and were forced to embrace Islam. The sect’s cruel leaders have married some of the girls, obviously against their wish. Others have been left to practice their religion but their condition can hardly be ascertained.
“Both ground and air security personnel in the Sambisa forest could spot where the girls are, but since the insurgents have also kidnapped housewives and other women, no one could say whether they mixed them or how they dispersed them.
“But efforts are being intensified and as people know, the three neighbouring governments of Cameroun, Chad, and Niger are helping us since these suicide bombers are now going to their areas and detonating the bombs in mosques and other places.”
Nigerian Pilot Saturday recalls that in the last days of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the troops fighting the terrorists at North-East claimed to have rescued no less than 707 women including girls and children.
The statistic showed that on April 28, 293 women and girls were rescued when military troops reportedly stormed Sambisa forest, believed to be Boko Haram’s last stronghold.
The news of the rescued women and girls gave everybody hope that at least the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls were among them, but the then Director Defence Information, DDI, Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade said he could not confirm the identity of the freed victims and their origins, adding that he could not even state if any of them was from Chibok until after thorough screening and proper investigation.
General Olukolade said, “I can only confirm the rescued this afternoon of 200 girls and 93 women in different camps in the forest. We are yet to determine their origin as all the freed persons are now being screened and profiled. Please do not misquote me on their origin. We will provide more details later.”
Two days after, the military rescued another set of 160 women and children,when on April 30; the Nigerian Army confirmed that 60 women and 100 children were rescued from the insurgents at the same Sambisa forest.
Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. SaniUsman confirmed that the women and children were rescued during a raid of Sambisa Forest and have been moved to safer areas for further action, even as he said some of the victims were undergoing medical scrutiny and other preparatory measures for interrogation at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
On May 2, another 234 women and children were rescued from the terrorists at the SambisaForest and were evacuated to join others at the place of the screening.
Again, on May 23, Defence headquarters Abuja confirmed that the military troops rescued 20 more women and children fromSambisaForest, when the then military spokesman, General Olukolade assured that the troops were determined to rout out the terrorists fromSambisaForest and anywhere they may run to before Jonathan’s May 29 handover date to the incoming administration Buhari.
Despite this huge number of rescued women and girls, it was not clear whether the Chibok schoolgirls were among them, and while the military high command was still screening the rescued females to ascertain their identity, the Nigerian Army stated categorically that the rescued women were not Chibok schoolgirls.
Army spokesman, Col.SaniUsman told Reuters in a text message, “The rescued 200 abducted girls are not Chibok girls”.


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