Government must show greater resolve to rescue the girls

Last Friday marked exactly 900 days that 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. Although 57 of the girls escaped from their abductors on that day, the remaining 219, except the one recently found on the outskirts of Sambisa forest with a baby, are still in the captivity of the terrorists. From the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan who lost his job partly because of the manner he handled the matter to that of his successor, President Muhammadu Buhari, options remain unclear about the efforts by the federal government to rescue the girls.

Yet, without the return of the girls, the promise of the constitution that the welfare of Nigerians shall be the primary purpose of government will continue to ring hollow – because the implication would be that our government has failed not only those girls in distress but also their parents and by extension, all Nigerians. That then explains why giving up on rescuing the girls cannot be an option for any self-respecting society. The federal government must therefore step up its game by prioritising the rescue effort.

In the course of his trip for the United Nations General Assembly last month, President Buhari sought the mediation of the international community in the efforts to free the Chibok girls from the captivity of Boko Haram. The government, the president told UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, was willing to accept the UN as a mediator. “The challenge is in getting credible and bonafide leadership of Boko Haram to discuss with,” said President Buhari. “The split in the insurgent group is not helping matters. Government had reached out, ready to negotiate, but it became difficult to identify credible leaders. We will welcome intermediaries such as UN outfits, to step in.”

Being the first time the president would raise hope about the prospect of securing the release of the abducted girls, it was a welcome development for which we urge a quick follow-up. There are experts in such field of negotiations that can help and given the promises of recent years, there is no reason why such support would not be placed at the disposal of Nigeria on the issue of Chibok girls. But that will happen only if the government is ready and willing to walk its talk. Unfortunately, we have not seen much evidence of that on this tragic matter.

As we have argued on this page on several occasions, we cannot afford to give up on the abducted girls because they represent a blur on our collective humanity. Therefore, the authorities must deploy all necessary resources, equipment, intelligence and men into the forest and beyond – whatever it takes – to get the girls out. Security men must redouble their efforts, as each day that passes is one day too many. Nigerians desperately need the assurance that our government has the capacity to defend our territory and that the life of every single citizen in distress matters. Nothing would symbolise that more than the return of the Chibok girls.

It is indeed for that reason that we have always supported the men and women in the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) coalition who continue to pile pressure on government and its agencies to ensure the rescue of the girls. We salute their tenacity and sacrifice. And in a vibrant country such as ours, the media must keep the Chibok girls on the front burner of public discourse. They have been away for such a long time. Even when hopes seem to be waning for the parents, some of whom have died in anguish, the authorities should do everything necessary to bring the Chibok girls back home.

The authorities must deploy all necessary resources, equipment, intelligence and men into the forest and beyond – whatever it takes – to get the girls out