TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

View from abroad: Why Jonathan can't bring back our girls

By The Rainbow
Listen to article

.An insight into the political bickerings, military corruption stalling rescue of kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls

When local people warned that hundreds of Islamist militants were heading towards his remote town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria, Danuma Mphur hurried to summon help.

As chairman of the Parent Teachers Association at the town's school, Mphur feared for the safety of children who were staying there to take exams. The 15 Nigerian soldiers in Chibok were no match for the forces of Boko Haram, a militant group waging a campaign to create an Islamic state in the region. Reinforcements were needed, fast. Mphur says he called the police and the local government chairman.

In turn the local government chairman also called the police and contacted the military commander in Chibok between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on that evening, according to Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno state, which includes Chibok.

'Can we go further than that?' said Shettima, suggesting there was little more local people could have done than ask for help.

Backup never arrived. The military said in a statement that it received no warning about the attack. It added that when reinforcements were sent, they were ambushed on the '120 km rugged and tortuous road' from Maiduguri, the state capital, and delayed. Chibok's local government chairman could not be contacted for comment.

Either way, about three hours after Mphur rang for help, Boko Haram militants swept into Chibok and abducted 276 girls from the school. While 57 escaped, according to the state government, most are still missing, and Boko Haram has threatened to sell them 'in the market.'

Though Nigeria's military said on Monday that it now knows where the girls are, it has ruled out using force to try to rescue them.

The mass kidnap on the night of April 14 sparked headlines worldwide - but it was far from the first misstep in Nigeria's war against Boko Haram. Interviews with witnesses to the kidnapping, Nigerian military and security officials, Western diplomats and counter-terrorism experts, highlight a series of failings by politicians and the military in the struggle against the group, not just in the hours leading up to the raid on the school, but over several years.

Divisions, low morale and corruption within the military have allowed the Islamist militants to take over large swathes of Nigeria's northeast. Since an initial uprising in 2009, Boko Haram's campaign to create a breakaway Islamic state has accelerated. It has now killed more than 5,000 people, including an estimated 1,800 this year alone.

A bitter struggle between the federal government in Abuja and at least two state governors in the northeast has made it harder to coordinate a response to the group, say analysts and security sources.