More than nine months after no fewer than 200 school girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents inside their school hostel in Chibok, Borno State, the Australian government has revealed that they have repeatedly offered the Nigerian government their support to help find the kidnapped schoolgirls, but the offers have not been taken up.
Making the disclosure on Tuesday was Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, adding that the Australian government had made no fewer than four offers to help Nigeria find the schoolgirls, who were kidnapped by the radical Islamist group in April last year.
“Nigeria has welcomed our offers but hasn’t made any request for specific assistance,” Ms Bishop said. “The international community stands ready to work with the Nigerian government to assist in its efforts to counter terrorism and implement counter-radicalisation programmes.”
Bishop made the comment while reacting to reports that at least one girl as young as 10 has been used as a suicide bomber by the Boko Haram sect in northern Nigeria.
“The government is deeply concerned by the ongoing terrorist attacks and I am appalled by the recent massacre in Baga and the reports of young girls being used as suicide bombers,” she said.
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However, the foreign minister said Australia had achieved some broader counter-terrorism cooperation with Nigeria, such as by providing money directly and through global organisations towards education, sports and art, which helped prevent radicalisation.
Meanwhile, when the spokesperson of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ode A. Ogbole, was contacted about the statement, he stated that he was not aware of any such offer and could not comment on it.
The Nigerian High Commissioner to Australia, Ambassador Ayo Olukanmi, while speaking to a Daily Trust reporter on the telephone, confirmed that Australia offered to help Nigeria find the Chibok girls and that Nigeria did not reject the offer.
“Nigeria did not reject Australia’s offer as far as the issue is concerned but we agreed to engage them quietly.
Australian parliament also took up the issue after which I held meeting with their minister of foreign affairs and further reiterated our agreement of engaging them quietly which should not be discussed on the pages of the newspapers,” Olukanmi said.
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It would be recalled that no fewer than 150 people were reported to have been killed in Baga town in Borno last week by Boko Haram insurgents.