15 May 2014

Can Nigeria protect its own people?

The case of the missing schoolgirls in Nigeria has highlighted the country’s failure to protect its own people as it deals with the threat from the violent Islamist group Boko Haram.

Villages have been demolished and locals targetted as the government looks to clear out members of the organisation, but many say they are becoming innocent victims of the clampdown as our Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller now reports from the capital Abuja above.

Nigeria missing girls: kidnap exchange ‘ruled out’

The Nigerian government rule out an exchange with terrorist group Boko Haram of more than 200 abducted schoolgirls for detained Islamic militants, a British officials says.

Mark Simmonds said Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has “made it very clear that there will be no negotiation with Boko Haram that involves a swap of abducted schoolgirls for prisoners”.

But Mr Simmonds, who is visiting Nigeria for talks, said after a meeting with President Jonathan that Nigeria’s government will talk to the militants on reconciliation.

‘Ongoing dialogue’

“The point that also was made very clear to me is that the president was keen to continue and facilitate ongoing dialogue to find a structure and architecture of delivering lasting solution to the conflict and the cause of conflict in northern Nigeria,” he said.

Reuben Abati, a spokesman for the Nigerian presidency, said that the president met Mr Simmonds at the presidential palace in Abuja to discuss the missing girls and Britain’s role in trying to rescue them.

Read more: Boko Haram video shows kidnapped schoolgirls

He said Mr Simmonds “reassured President Jonathan of Britain’s commitment to giving Nigeria all required assistance to find and safely rescue the abducted girls”.

British surveillance aircraft and a military team were offered to the Nigerian government on Wednesday to assist in the search for the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants.

David Cameron said the kidnapping of the girls from their school was an act of “pure evil” as he updated MPs on the support being offered to the Nigerian authorities.

‘Act of pure evil’

The prime minister told the commons: “Today I can announce we have offered Nigeria further assistance in terms of surveillance aircraft, a military team to embed with the Nigerian army in their HQ and a team to work with US experts to analyse information on the girls’ location.”

He added: “This was an act of pure evil, the world is coming together not just to condemn it but to do everything we can to help the Nigerians find these young girls.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the aircraft offered to the Nigerian authorities to assist in the search is a Sentinel spy plane, which has a crew of five.

Read more: Boko Haram - who are the group bringing terror to Nigeria?

The US has already provided surveillance assistance, and Mr Cameron’s offer of help would include an intelligence team in Abuja to help analyse information about the girls’ location.

The proposed military team embedded within the army HQ would act as a liaison between the intelligence cell and Nigerian officers, the MoD said.

Meanwhile, Labour have hit out at “delays” in the Government’s response to the abduction of the schoolgirls.

Shadow Foreign Office minister Lord Bach claimed there was a three-week gap between the kidnapping and Mr Cameron phoning Mr Jonathan.