Nigeria’s Immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan, has denied a report by British newspaper, the Observer, that he rejected an offer by the the British military to rescue more than 270 school girls abducted by the Boko Haram.
According to the Observer’s report which was culled from its sister publication, the Guardian, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in an operation code named, Operation Turus, spotted the girls during air reconnaissance over northern Nigeria weeks after they were kidnapped, but the Jonathan administration turned down an offer to rescue them.
“The girls were located in the first few weeks of the RAF mission. We offered to rescue them, but the Nigerian government declined,” a source involved in the operation told the Observer.
The source claimed that the girls were tracked by aircraft as they gradually broken into smaller groups over the following months.
Details of meetings between British and Nigerian officials, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, also indicated that the government rebuffed international offers to rescue the girls.
According to the newspaper, while the government accepted aid package and assistance from Western countries, such as France, the U.S. and the UK in locating the girls, it dismissed offers for actions to be taken by these countries to rescue the girls.
“Nigeria’s intelligence and military services must solve the ultimate problem,” Mr. Jonathan was quoted as saying in a meeting with the UK’s then Africa minister, Mark Simmonds, on 15 May 2014.
A document with the details of a meeting on September 2014 in Abuja between Nigeria’s national security adviser at the time, Sambo Dasuki, and a former British Under Secretary of State shows that Operation Turus had reached a point where rescue was being discussed.
But the Jonathan administration did not respond to offers for help on the type of equipment that might be used or how weapon system should be deployed, the newspaper said.
But in a statement released late on Sunday by Mr. Jonathan’s media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, the former president dismissed the report as completely false.
He said the international collaboration to rescue the abducted girls involved neigbouring African countries such as Chad and Cameroon; adding that his administration was so supportive of the efforts that it allowed Western military to conduct reconnaissance flight over the country’s airspace.
“We can confidently say the lies in this report are self evident. This is because the international press as well as the Nigeria media actively covered the multinational efforts and collaboration which involved some of the major powers deploying their crack intelligence officers to work with our own security operatives, and those of our neighbours,” the statement explained.
The statement wondered why Mr. Jonathan would rebuff an offer to rescue the girls when he specifically wrote the leaders of some foreign power to assist in the searching for the abducted girls.
“We would wish to recall that this collaboration was made possible following letters personally written by former President Jonathan President Barack Obama of the United States, President Francois Hollande of France, Mr. David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as well as personal contacts made to the Government of Israel and China, seeking their assistance in the search for the abducted Chibok girls.”
Boko Haram militias kidnapped the girls from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014. Some of them escaped in the days after the abduction. Twenty-one of them were freed by the sect after a deal with the government last October.
About 200 of the girls are still missing.