The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) Wednesday stood by the claim made by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, that it had located the 200 plus girls who were abducted from their secondary school in Chibok over a month ago.
Badeh on Monday had said the military had located the missing teenagers, but would not want to resort to force to rescue them in order to avoid collateral damage.
The DHQ was reacting to the sceptism expressed by the US State Department the next day over Badeh’s claim, stating that it had no “independent information” on the matter.
The State Department also issued a statement yesterday to correct erroneous assertions that the longtime human rights tool commonly known as the “Leahy Law” in some way could hinder US partnership efforts with the Nigerian government to rescue the kidnapped schoolgirls from Boko Haram.
This is just as the British tabloid, Daily Mail, reported that Britain will be joining the United States to send soldiers to Nigeria, but the troops would not be involved directly in the hunt for the girls or take an active role in any military action against the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
They will be deployed to provide specialist training for Nigerian forces as part of a package of assistance provided by the British government to tackle the threat posed by the increasingly bold Islamic sect.
Speaking on the military’s stance that it was aware of the location of the girls, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Major-Gen Chris Olukolade, while speaking at the National Briefing Centre on Terrorism, in Abuja, said: “Let everyone believe what the Chief of Defence Staff said and if you don’t believe, wait for developments. But our interest is in the safety of these children and every effort will be put towards that and we expect cooperation from everyone.
“We remain with the position taken by the CDS. When we have any further comments or developments, the nation will be told.”
Also speaking on Monday’s attack on a military installation in Buni-Yadi in Yobe State by Boko Haram, Olukolade said 12 soldiers and 13 policemen were killed during the fighting.
He also denied the speculation that the troops in Buni-Yadi were left high and dry by the military command during the incident.
“The logistics will have to be understood and it will not be proper just to conclude that there was no help or response. However, we will continue to respond based on logistics that is available and information that is made available as quickly as possible,” he said.
Olukolade also expressed ignorance over media reports that members of Boko Haram had on Monday hoisted their flag in Ashigashiya community in Gwazo Local Government Area of Borno State.
He said the military was not aware of the incident, adding that the military would not allow such a campaign to succeed.
“I am reading it from you people as well, but all I can tell you at the moment is that the Nigerian military and security agencies will not allow any group to hoist strange flags in any portion of this country. It is our duty to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria, we will not allow any strange flag to fly anywhere and you can be sure that such campaigns will not succeed,” he said.
Olukolade disclosed that based on intelligence reports and information provided by Nigerians, a number of arrests had been made in different parts of Kaduna and Zamfara States and thus reducing terror activities tremendously in those states.
“Troops have continued to raid different locations. A number of arrests have been made in Kachia and Zamfara,” he said, adding that in the course of the raids, some suspects died during the exchange of gunfire with troops while arms and ammunition were recovered in the process.
He also gave an update on the recent bomb explosions in Jos, Plateau State, saying one suspect had been arrested and was cooperating with security forces which would lead to further arrests.
In another event yesterday, the CDS declared that the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency war had grown beyond Boko Haram, to a broader war against the Al Qaeda terror network in North and West Africa.
Badeh stated this when the Social Welfare Network Initiative (SWNI), a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and community-based non-governmental organisation paid him a visit in DHQ.
The CDS said the military and federal government are caught up in a serious war that is now far bigger than Boko Haram, adding that Al Qaeda was now fully in charge of terrorist activities in the country.
He however pledged that despite the “formidable nature of the global terror network”, Nigeria would defeat them, while reiterating the military’s resolve to rescue the missing schoolgirls.