Nigeria’s army chief, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai has voiced his misgivings about the likelihood of ever finding the missing “Chibok schoolgirls.” While speaking to members of the press at the 2016 Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL), Buratai noted that the Nigerian army has recorded many important victories over the last couple of months, completely retaking all territories previously under the control of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. He maintained that Nigerian troops have continuously mounted daily patrols to flush out all remnants of the militants.
At the same time, the Nigerian army chief said he regretted that the issue of the missing Chibok girls has been politicized and hijacked by diverse partisan interests. According to Buratai, thousands of people, young and old, had been abducted across northeastern Nigeria during Boko Haram’s reign of terror, and he wondered why the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls has enjoyed a decidedly skewed attention from certain groups or persons.
In the words of the army chief, “The issue of the Chibok schoolgirls has been politicised. Ours is professional duty. We will keep looking out to rescue more. We’re still searching for them and by the grace of God, if they are still alive, we will rescue them. Today, nobody knows their whereabouts.”
Boko Haram earned the attention and revulsion of a global audience in April 2014, when it kidnapped over 200 secondary school girls while they slept in their dormitories in the village of Chibok, in northeastern Nigeria. US First Lady Michelle Obama had famously joined the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign, demanding the rescue of the girls.
A pressure group known as the BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) organisation emerged in Nigeria in the days after their abduction to continue to press for the girls’ safe release. However, their efforts continue to divide public opinion within Nigeria as some claim that the actions of the group only serves to promote certain political interests.
Lt-Gen Buratai however assured that Nigerian armed forces are determined to continue searching for the missing girls even as a record 5,000 people held captive by Boko Haram were liberated last week.
“The military is very much interested in information that would enable us to rescue the girls,” the army boss said. “We will continue to search for the remaining girls. They may have been spread all over the Sambisa forest probably, or they could be in one place. We are still searching for them and we will continue to search for them.”
The kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls have been missing for more than 800 days now. In May this year, Nigerian authorities announced that they had rescued two of the missing girls; it is still unclear, however, if both girls had been among those abducted from Chibok.