The federal government lacks the confidence to thump its chest and say categorically that it can find the abducted Chibok girls.
This disclosure was made by the Coordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala when she answered questions thrown at her by Katie Couric of Yahoo News.
According to Iweala, “no one can answer that question. There is no one who can tell you with confidence. What we can tell you is that every single possible resource will be used to track these girls. You are dealing with people who are irrational.”
When reminded that there is a tidal wave of criticism about the Nigerian government’s response to these kidnappings, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stated that “the government did not communicate what it was doing previously, because there was some element of reticence so as not to cause harm to the girls. That should not have been the case, it should have been that there was communication so that the Nigerian public and the parents of these girls know that action is being taken.”
She said President Goodluck Jonathan “has openly pledged his commitment to do everything to rescue these girls, and the government has stepped up action, has appealed to the international community for help and is accepting help from the US, France, the UK, China and they are all coming in. The government has stepped up the number of troops that are working there and is working with countries that have satellite imagery to do more.”
When asked how trustworthy President Goodluck Jonathan is and why the families seem to know where the girls are but the government does not, the finance minister dismissed what she called characterization as being incorrect. According to Okonjo-Iweala, they searched in the Sambisa forest, they were not using aerial surveillance, they were not able to find the girls. This is a large area and it is not clear whether they (abducted girls) are still together in a group or whether they have been split up, and the whole idea is that nothing should be done to harm the girls. In the past, the country has used some aerial surveillance but you can’t do that because you don’t want to end up harming the girls.”
Asked how the government plans to stop these extremists who want women to stop going to school and getting jobs, the finance minister said, “we are going to stop the extremists with a multi-prong approach. It is not a simple thing; there is the military angle, the insurgency angle, the political angle that has to be pursued and also there is the development angle where we have to give our young people hope and make sure that their school is not interfered with, that they feel more secure.”
All these things have to be done she said, but “it is not easy fighting these acts of terrorism, if it was easy you will not find them cropping up all over the world. You will not see Afghanistan, or Pakistan or even the recent bombing in the US, the Boston Marathon. You will not see two or three decades of the Irish Republican army fighting in the UK; they were not able to defeat them despite the sophistication of the UK at the time. And it took a long time and political negotiation for it to end.”
This kind of warfare she said “is not standard, it’s not the kind you move soldiers and then go and face the people face to face. It is a war of attrition and opportunity, it can crop up in any place in the world, and I think we need the help of modern technology, human insurgency and intelligence experts to also help us. This is not going to be won by conventional means…We are deeply frustrated.”