Chibok 21: Military offensive to continue
The Army has said the counter-insurgency operation in the Northeast would continue despite the release of 21 out of the more than 200 abducted girls from a Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, more than 900 days ago by members of the Boko Haram sect.
In a telephone interview with The Guardian, the Director of Defence Information (DDI) Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, said the military has a mandate to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
Abubakar noted that negotiations for the release or otherwise of the thousands of people abducted by the Boko Haram terrorists is political and is being handled by the appropriate body.
Reiterating the earlier position from the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Gabriel Olonisakin, Abubakar maintained that negotiations for the release of detained Boko Haram members is a political decision being handled by the politicians, stressing that the military is duty bound to accomplish its set task.
“The military hierarchy is happy with the release of the Chibok girls, we are all Nigerians; the most important thing is that they are released. But the military will not on the strength of that back down from defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria and securing her borders and citizens.
“We all longed for the time the freedom of the girls would be secured, like that of all other hostages in the custody of the terrorists, so we are glad that it is achieved,” Abubakar said.
However, a university lecturer, Anthony Igyuve, has cautioned that negotiations of the nature currently embarked upon by the federal government with the sect are better done from the position of strength than weakness to get a better deal.
“So if the Boko Haram terrorists released the girls without a corresponding swap with their members held in detention, it would still be in order, as the Nigeria military presently have the upper hand.
“Also, the contribution of the multinational task force put together by the Lake Chad Basin Commission cannot be wished away. The more than 7,000 troops put together to secure the borders have helped in diverse ways to keep the entry and exit points between the countries secured,” he said.
Igyuve recalled that before the taskforce was put together, the nation’s borders were free entry points, for recruitment of members, movement of logistics and even retreating for the Boko haram.
It would be recalled that the counter-insurgency mission code-named, Operation Lafiya Dole, was spearheaded by the Nigeria military, in collaboration with the armies of the countries around the Lake Chad basin, under the aegis of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), with headquarters in N’djamena.