The Defence Headquarters has said the inability of the Nigerian military to free the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, should not blight the many successes recorded by troops fighting day and night to stamp out the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast.
The Defence Headquarters specifically mentioned the “daily rescue of human beings” from Boko Haram captivity as some of the gains recorded by the troops.
The Acting Director of Defence Information, Rabe Abubakar, who made this position known in a telephone chat with PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday, reminded Nigerians that every day, troops give their best in the defence of the country, hence they deserve commendation, rather than condemnation, in some quarters, over their inability to bring back the Chibok schoolgirls.
Mr. Abubakar, a Brigadier General, said “Boko Haram abduction has reduced by 99 percent, except in very remote villages where they harass citizens while looking for food
“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 the agitation by the BringBackOurGirls movement campaigning for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls, the Defence spokesman urged the group to be “holistic” and “not to focus on Chibok girls alone”.
According to him, the BBOG ought to appreciate the success of freeing other Nigerians, who he noted have only one life and also have parents too like the Chibok girls.
“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”.
Brig.-Gen. Abubakar also said he could not give a definite period of success of rescue operations but stressed that 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 Defence spokesman, however, frowned at “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 a 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 to endanger the lives of the Chibok girls in a bid to rescue them.
“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 last stronghold and headquarters of the Boko Haram and location of the Chibok girls, is a challenge 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 be separated from politics and sentiments”.