Beyond The Chibok Schoolgirls


Government should exploit this momentous opening to pursue a comprehensive peace process across the country

Nigerians and, indeed, the entire world have welcomed with some relief the release of 21 of the now famous “Chibok Girls”. Since their violent abduction by Boko Haram terrorists in April 2014, the plight of these girls has remained a major global concern. And in the last two and a half years, options in the effort to rescue them had ranged from outright military action to negotiations and swap deals. Not until this latest development has there been a significant breakthrough.

Twenty one out of the 217 girls in Boko Haram’s captivity may not be a significant percentage. But in the battle for human life, even a single girl amounts to a great deal. More importantly, the families of the freed girls and, indeed, Nigerians now experience a spell of joy that the efforts of government have started yielding fruit.

We join in congratulating the functionaries of the Nigerian government, the Swiss government and the International Red Cross for the synergy of efforts that led to the release of these girls. We praise the various civil society groups, especially the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement, for their persistent pressure on the federal government and the international community on the plight of the girls.

This outcome indicates that the authorities are mastering the right mix of force and negotiations the situation requires to end the bloody insurgency. Undoubtedly, the determined effort of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, with considerable assistance from the neighbouring countries, has in recent months put immense pressure and degraded the capacity of Boko Haram.

There has also been significant input by major international partners in the effort to defeat the insurgents and free the Chibok schoolgirls. Under that level of pressure, Boko Haram, perhaps, had no choice than to begin to negotiate its way out of a difficult situation.

Therefore, we see the release of the 21 girls as a good omen for the federal government in its determined effort to end the brutal and costly insurgency. The challenge of the moment is to deepen the engagement process in order to secure the total freedom of the rest of the girls and all the other hostages of Boko Haram.

But the peace and victory which Nigerians seek today is a comprehensive one and on all fronts. That is why the Buhari administration must leverage on the success of the on-going process to pursue a compressive peace and resolve all other conflicts around the country.

In order to advance the national goals and begin to resolve the myriad economic and social issues that currently besiege the country, we need peace in our country. There are too many divisive forces at play in the nation today. In the Niger Delta, in the South-east, and the urban and semi-urban areas of the nation, militant forces and separatist pressures have continued to multiply and put the nation at unease. When all these are combined with the scourge of the Boko Haram sectarian upheaval in the North-east, the picture is that of a nation at war with itself.

We call on the government to quicken the pace of its resolution of the Boko Haram scourge through the on-going military campaigns and negotiations. While proven cases of outright treason on the part of individual combatants should be visited through the laws of the land, the broad majority of misguided Boko Haram elements could benefit from a comprehensive amnesty programme that should reintegrate them back into the society once they demonstrably renounce terrorism.

It is our hope that the federal government will exploit this opening to pursue a comprehensive peace process all over the country. Dialogue and relevant amnesty where necessary will help to blunt the swords of war and heal the various wounds that afflict the nation. We need an inclusive solution to the divisive tendencies plaguing the nation in order that all Nigerians can join hands to pursue peaceful and orderly development.

QUOTE: The challenge of the moment is to deepen the engagement process in order to secure the total freedom of the rest of the girls and all the other hostages of Boko Haram