Nigeria has been receiving technological assistance from the United States of America (USA), United kingdom (UK) France and Canada, among others, in tracking the location of the abducted Chibok girls, Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed said yesterday.
Mohammed, who was responding to questions from newsmen after detailing efforts by the federal government to have the girls released from the Boko Haram captivity said the military’s containment of the terror sect was being under celebrated in this country.
He said: “You know if the matter were that simple, it would have been resolved a long time ago. Let me start like this, you find out that in my address I said that many friendly countries have availed us of their technological and material resources and I am talking about advanced countries like US, UK, France, Canada, so it is not really as simple as you have said.
“I will tell you this, when they say Sambisa Forest, what do you think it is Sambisa Forest. It is about 300 kilometres stretch; you know this is not Jabi Lake or Jabi Park. And in some of these areas we can’t even fly any helicopter because of the density of the forest.
“More importantly, even if you identify the location of the girls, you will not want to open fire on them. And we know from all intelligence that these girls are kept in several places. If you attack one place where they are being kept, they may slaughter the others.”
The minister insisted that the military was winning the war against Boko Haram.
He added: “As for the efforts of winning the war, I think I have had occasions to say that the success of Nigerian military in winning this war of terrorism is rather under celebrated in this country.
“I think those who live in the North East appreciated better what the government has achieved in the North East in the last couple of months.
“Before now, nobody could travel to Maiduguri, Damaturu, Konduga, or Gwoza. Today, because we have liberated those areas, everybody can go there. Before we came, 14 out of the 20 local government areas of Borno alone were under the sovereignty of Boko Haram, but today not one single local government area is under their sovereignty.
“Before now, it was with regularity that Boko Haram struck; now they have been dismantled, they have been decapitated, and all they do now is probably marauding.
“Now, there are three ways by which insurgency might end, it is either insurgents overrun the government, and instill their own government; you know where it happened in many places in the world. Or both sides will be weary of war and sign a peace agreement. You saw what happened in Colombia recently.
“Or the very rare case, where the government will wipe out insurgency and this is what is happening in Nigeria. So I think we must give that credit to Nigeria, to this administration for being able to deal decisively with Boko Haram insurgency.”
On the activities of Bring Back Our Girls Group (BBOG), the minister said the group had legal right to protest within the ambit of the law.
He said the group comprises intelligent people and the IGP warning to BBOG was only meant to protect security within the precincts of the Presidential Villa, but not to denigrate the campaigners.
He said it was wrong to allege that the government had used and dumped the BBOG leaders.
He said: “Now as to your question of using BBOG and dropping them, I think this is extremely, extremely unfair allegation. The BBOG, those people involved are Nigerians and many of them voluntarily joined BBOG, some of them were in PDP, some of them in APC, it was their choice.
“Does it mean the fact that because one of them who was far more political, who was also involved in BBOG, has been given an appointment, we have now picked some and dropped some?
“I don’t think so and we did not use anybody and dump anybody. Absolutely, it is not correct. I think it is an unfair way to look at the episode unfolding. And you see they are very intelligent people.
“From my understanding, the IGP was more concerned about securing the Villa. Every Nigerian has the right to protest under the ambit of the law.”
Mohammed pleaded for understanding on the case of Chibok girls because hostage-taking and liberation require much time.
He said: “In 1978 when Iranian students held some Americans hostage in the embassy, how long did it take for the negotiation and for the release? In that situation, they were kept within the embassy of the US in Tehran.
“These girls were kidnapped in April 2014; we didn’t come in until May 2015, one full year after which the trail had gone very, very cold.
“We are not trading blame, but we are saying that is it really, morally right for you not to appreciate the efforts we have made, between 2015 and today when there is no absolute record of any effort that was made for a whole one year?
“And please you must understand that you are dealing with the lives of very young girls. Within one year, terrorists had the opportunity of hiding them anywhere in the world.
“We tell you here that these were the efforts we have made in 2015; these are the ones we have made in 2016. And, of course, I will not be here and tell you precisely what we have done in 2016, because that will jeopardize investigations. As I speak to you, of course, they are also listening, they read newspapers.
“On the issue of credible people, of course, you follow every lead, but you make sure that you know who you are dealing with. Like I said in my preamble, some of the lists we got were credible and some were not so credible and some were completely out of track.
“And you see when you are in this type of situation, trying to release hostages, it is not like the Olympic Games where you can tell them that you have won one gold today and another one tomorrow, anybody can watch it. It is extremely, extremely covert operations.”