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Chibok girls: 300 days after… – Thisday

By The Citizen
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Yesterday marked exactly 300 days that 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State at a time they were writing the West African School Certificate (WASC) examination. Some 57 of the girls were later to escape from their abductors while 219 of them, between the ages of 15 and 19, remain in the captivity of the terrorists. Yet despite repeated official promises to rescue the girls, Nigerians, and indeed, the Chibok community, are left to speculation, since options appear unclear and hope seems to be fading fast.

So tragic is the situation that about three months ago, the Chibok community announced that they would prefer that the federal government attack the insurgents forcefully, even if that would result in fatalities.The parents of the girls (some of whom have died) told the world that they would rather the bodies of their daughters be brought home than continue to live in such suspended animation. To fulfill cultural rites, funeral obsequies were held for the girls in absentia, if only to bring closure to the families and to a grieving, helpless and hopeless community. However, as we pointed out at the time, giving up on rescuing the girls cannot be an option for any self-respecting society.

Unfortunately, not only has there been no news on the whereabouts of the girls or the efforts being made to rescue them, the whole tragedy has at various times degenerated into petty politics. It has also exposed the fact that all may not be well with the Nigerian armed forces whose men and officers were once reputed to be among some of the finest in the world. Indeed, the history of peace-making accounts across the globe can't be complete without a mention of the gallantry of Nigerian soldiers, raising questions about what may have gone wrong in recent years such that troops from smaller neighbouring countries now freely enter our territories to practically do the job that our soldiers find rather difficult.

Although counter-terrorism is a new terrain in its collective experience, the nation's armed forces could have easily mastered the art. Apart from the viability of its training institutions, the nation's military has had some of the best commanders around. The problem therefore basically remains that of funding, motivation and leadership from the highest political authority.

As we have repeatedly highlighted, the atmosphere of insecurity currently inflicted on the nation by the Boko Haram crises points to the absence of a coherent strategy in the management of the security issues arising therefrom. The group has existed for years, quietly and with known preferences in belief and social practices. Then something happened and institutions associated with state power became the target of its structured hostility and attacks.

The federal government must step up its game and there is no better way of doing that than by prioritising the rescue efforts of the Chibok girls who must never be forgotten. The authorities must deploy all necessary resources, equipment, intelligence and whatever else it would take to find and bring the girls back home. 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 the citizens wherever they may be. And in a vibrant country such as ours, the media must keep the Chibok girls on the front burner of public discourse.

Whatever the situation, we cannot as a country afford to give up on the abducted Chibok girls. They have been away for far too long. But it is never too late to bring them back home to their parents. And alive!