By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu Buhari has ruled out military option in the efforts to secure the release of 110 abducted Dapchi girls and their remaining Chibok counterparts.
He said that his administration prefers to have schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok and Dapchi back alive, hence the choice of negotiation, instead of military action
Buhari stated this on Monday when the United States (US) Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, visited him in Aso Rock.
Tillerson promised the president that his country would use its security intelligence, equipment and training to assist in the efforts to peacefully rescue the school girls abducted by suspected terrorists last month.
The President explained that Nigeria was working in concert with international organizations and negotiators, to ensure that the girls were released unharmed by their captors.
“We are trying to be careful. It is better to get our daughters back alive,” he said, and promised that his administration would continue to do its best to secure the country.
In a statement issued after the parley, the Presidency quoted Buhari as stressing that he would be in Yobe State, from where Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted, later this week “as part of my condolence and sympathy visits to areas where we have had unfortunate events.”
He thanked the US for assistance it rendered in the fight against insurgency, declaring that Nigerian forces are good, “but need assistance in the areas of training and equipment.”
The President pledged free and fair polls in 2019, and recalled that the then American Secretary of State, John Kerry, had visited before the 2015 polls, “and he told the party in government then, and those of us in opposition, to behave ourselves, and we did.”
The visiting Secretary of State commended President Buhari on his strides in the anti-corruption war, to which the Nigerian leader responded that monies recovered were being invested on the development of infrastructure.
He said that Nigeria was a very important country to the US, stressing that “you have our support in your challenges. We will also support opportunities to expand the economy, commercial investments, and peaceful polls in 2019.”
At a press conference with State House correspondents afterwards, alongside Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Tillerson described the abduction of the 110 schoolgirls from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Daphi in Yobe State as “heart-breaking”.
He said that it was worrisome that just like the kidnapping of scores of schoolgirls in Chibok three years ago, all the girls were yet to be freed, but regretted that America can do no more than provide required support and assistance since Nigeria remains a sovereign nation.
According to him, “We respect the responsibilities of the government of Nigeria and the territorial integrity of Nigeria. But the way we support is in providing them capability, capacity with equipment and also training of the personnel of special operations and sharing intelligence to ensure that they have all the information available to carry out the recovery effort.
The United States is ready to engage and coordinate efforts as well. But, we have been supporting, equipping, training and when we can, provide information. I think that is the best way we have been helping the government of Nigeria secure the release of the girls, which we hope, will be done in a peaceful manner. We hope that something can be worked out and they can secure the release of these girls quickly,”he said.
He added tha, Boko Haram being a threat to other regions, he had discussed it in several other meetings, including with President Derby of the neighbouring Chad Republic earlier in the day.
He further expressed the willingness of America to cooperate with Nigeria to boost bilateral trade between both countries, disclosing that later this year will witness the inauguration of Nigeria America Trade Dialogue to foster trade relations.
Tillerson also repeated his warning to African nations to be very cautious about accepting offer of loans from China in order to safeguard their national assets.
He suggested that needy African countries should exploit the opportunities offered by private foreign investors.
Also answering questions from reporters, Onyeama declared that while Boko Haram has been “completely degraded”, defeating the dreaded terrorists remains a “work in progress” for now.
He explained that the group had been degraded because it no longer takes territories after dislodging Nigerian security forces as happened before the Buhari government came into office in 2015.
The minister admitted though that the terrorists still inflict damage and take lives in attacks on soft targets, which were quite difficult to prevent sometimes as a lot more intelligence are required.
His words: “Fighting terrorism is a new challenge globally. When we talked of having degraded Boko Haram, we were referring specifically to the situation that we confronted when the government took over.
“That was a situation where you have a classical military confrontation and Boko Haram were capturing territory, holding unto territory and hoisting flags. So as a conventional military threat, Boko Haram has been completely degraded,a�? he said.
By Chesa Chesa