By; SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
Nigeria prefers to have schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok and Dapchi back alive, and that is why it has chosen negotiation, rather than military option, says President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday.
Receiving the American Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, in audience at the State House, Abuja, President Buhari in a statement by his special adviser media, Femi Adesina added 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,” the President said.
He thanked America for assistance rendered so far in the fight against insurgency, noting that Nigerian forces are good, “but need assistance in the areas of training and equipment.”
President Buhari promised that his administration would continue to do its best to secure the country, adding 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.”
The President pledged free and fair polls in 2019, recalling 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 moneys recovered are being invested on development of infrastructure.
Mr Tillerson said Nigeria was a very important country to the U.S, stressing: “You have our support in your challenges. We will also support opportunities to expand the economy, commercial investments, and peaceful polls in 2019.”
Also in a press briefing after meeting the president, The American Secretary of State said his country will assist Nigeria in the rescue of the remaining Dapchi and Chibok girls.
He said the United States government will provide assistance in terms of equipment, sharing of intelligence and training of the personnel of special operations.
Tillerson said “First, 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.
“But I think it is also important to put this in a broad regional context as well, Boko Haram is a threat to other region and this has been the subject of my meetings elsewhere and in Africa as well. In my discussion with President Derby in Chad earlier today, we spoke about the threat of Boko Haram and I think it is important and it’s really been powerful, the collaboration between the joint task force which Nigeria is a part and Chad is a part, to respond to this threat of terrorism which Boko Haram is one of the organizations, there are other threats that the leadership of this country has to deal with.
“So 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.
On his part, Minister of Foreign Affairs ,Goffery Onyeama maintained that as a conventional military threat, Boko Haram has been completely degraded.
He also dismissed insinuations that the federal government took a week to acknowledge the abduction of the Dapchi girls.
He commented” With regards to the kidnapped of the girls in Dapchi, it is incorrect to say we too a week to acknowledge. It was acknowledged immediately everything was being done and we were strategizing.
“Other people might have made comments but those comments do not represent any government coming out with the acknowledgment.
“Fighting terrorism is a new challenge globally. When we talked of having degrading Boko Haram, we were referring specifically to the situation that we was 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.
“Now, there is a challenge with regards to sporadic suicides and bombings and of course largely, there is kidnapping of the girls.
“We don’t by any way strength of imagination minimize those but it’s really a different kind of warfare as it is and the government is sparing no effort in addressing that.
“But it is a different challenge that requires intelligence and also understanding the environment that these kind of unlimited support for Boko Haram indoctrination of young children.
“So, in a nutshell, the answer is we didn’t take a week to acknowledge abduction of these girls and secondly, is a global challenge not just in Nigeria and is something we are addressing.
“But as far as military classical threat, we have certainly degraded the capacity of Boko Haram to beat a classical retreat.
When asked why things seemed to be getting worse despite the collaboration with the task force, friends and , the US, Onyeama said “As regards whether things are not getting worse in the fight against terrorism, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that that accurately represent the situation.
“There is no doubts that the threats is there, there is no doubt that the damage that they are capable of and are actually inflicting is great and this explains of course why there are so many countries involved and now establishing presence militarily in parts of the continent.
“But it’s is work in progress if I can use the word work to describe that kind of activity. It requires a lot of intelligence and like I said is asymmetric warfare that a lot of countries in this part of the continent are not just prepared for.
He stated that there is a lot of efforts and there has been a lot of success, really concrete successes that have been achieved.
“But clearly there is still a lot that needs to be done which is why there are these investments. Why it appears that these terrorists appears to be emboldened and stronger, when you see the attack in Burkina Faso, well these are soft targets and so difficult sometimes to prevent completely but with greater sharing of intelligence and I think there is greater cooperation now, with G5, Sahel, multinational joint task force have a presence here, we hope to turn the tide very soon.
On why he warned African countries on the Chinese loans, Tillerson clarified that he didn’t seek to stop Chinese investments in Africa but rather cautioned African leaders on the implications of the debt.
He explained “I think it is important to clarify that we do not seek to stop Chinese investments from flowing to countries that need those investments. But what we are cautioning countries is to look carefully, that the implications of the level of debts, the terms of the debts, and whether the arrangements around the local financing are intact creating jobs, local capacity or the projects being carried out by foreign labour being brought to your country, is the structure of the financing such that you will always be in control of your infrastructure?
” Are there mechanism to deal with the faults so that you do not loss ownership of your own assets? These are national assets whether there are ports, railways, or major highways.
“We have seen this occurred in other countries that were not so careful and has result they got themselves in situation where they awfully lost control of their infrastructure, lost the ownership, the operationalationship of it.
“And that is the precaution that we talking about. That there are international rules and norms and financial structure to deal with unforeseen circumstances and I think we are just cautioning countries to look carefully.
” There are other alternatives financing mechanism that are available and I think in particular, of government create the right conditions around those infrastructures investments, there are also great potentials for public-private sector co-investing in the infrastructure. And we are developing mechanism that will also create alternative opportunities financing offer.
“We have seen many many around the world that did not work out so well and we are just saying as friends, be careful, he stated.