West & Central Africa

Release of Chibok girls was ‘political’, claims army

 

The Nigerian military said this week that the exchange of 82 Chibok schoolgirls, almost all of whom are Christians, for commanders of Boko Haram was done for political gain rather than military strategy.

Speaking on ‘Hard Talk’, a BBC programme, on Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, said, “The Boko Haram terrorists’ swap for the Chibok schoolgirls was a political decision, not a military decision. It is in the best interest of the nation and based on the circumstances, the government felt it was the best course.”

Buratai said he was satisfied with the goodwill generated by the swap despite the fact that there had been no military victory. He declared: “Personally, I think it has its own advantages; the message is to rescue the Chibok girls.”

The military was not involved in the negotiations but provided logistical support. “As far as I am concerned, we performed our own role for the safe passage of the abducted Chibok girls,” he added.

He scaled back on claims made to the press that 700 terrorists had surrendered but argued that the war against Boko Haram “is clearly being won”.

The Nigerian army had repeatedly said that Boko Haram has been defeated and the terrorists are simply kicking their death throes. The chief of Army Staff commented:  “I do not think anyone has said the Boko Haram has been eliminated. Terrorism is something that is resilient.”

In the interview, General Buratai claimed credit in the war against Boko Haram: “Before May 2015, the Boko Haram insurgents were even in Abuja, Kano and Kaduna. They were operating even to the South. We had to stop them.

“For the past one and a half years, we have not had any attack in Jos, Abuja, Kano and many other places, not even as close as Gombe State.”

General Buratai said the Islamic terrorists, “are only concentrated within certain areas in Borno and Yobe states.”