The declaration by Nigerian militant group Boko Haram to sell off the more than 200 girls it kidnapped is challenging the might of the state. It points to a dangerous consolidation of the Islamist militant group that has acquired the notoriety of the Taliban and the clout of Al Qaeda in a country rife with poverty and corruption. Boko Haram, which translates to ‘western education is sin’ in the local Hausa language, kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok on April 14. Fifty-three of the students fled from the militants’ clutches, but the whereabouts of the 223
are not known.
The arrogance of the group was on display yesterday when its leader Abubakar Shekau appeared on a 57-minute video threatening to sell the girls on the market, as if they were some merchandise waiting for customers. “I abducted a girl at a Western education school and you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married. I will repeat this: Western education should fold up. I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Shekau said, adding that his group was holding the girls as “slaves”.
The declaration came a day after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to hunt down the girls in spite of his government not knowing where they are. Shekau’s open admission of the kidnap and egregious audacity a day after Jonathan’s remarks points to the immense challenge he is posing to the Nigerian state. Nigeria is becoming another example of an African nation falling prey to the travails of terrorism partly due to an inefficient and corrupt government. Jonathan’s administration has been accused of laxity and not doing enough to find the girls.
There have been rumours that the students have been made sex slaves and that a number of them have been sold for cash across the border.
Instead of letting loose his best sleuths on the perpetrators, Nigeria has arrested a woman activist who was pushing the government to do more to get the girls freed. Naomi Mutah was arrested after an overnight meeting with First Lady Patience Jonathan. The reasons for the arrest are unclear, but the president’s wife is said to wield enormous clout in the country.
The scourge of Boko Haram has been on Nigeria for years, but the government hasn’t been able to deal with the threat effectively. The militants have increased the frequency of bomb attacks — striking Abuja with a massive explosion on the day they abducted the girls. The group has been operating with impunity in the absence of a strict government policy to take it on. Jonathan should either undertake a major overhaul of his security policy or ask western powers for help in getting rid of the group.