The Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will meet with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja next week for talks on the rescue of the abducted Chibok girls.
Brown, who is a United Nations adviser, said in a piece published in The Guardian of London that Nigeria should get the international community’s military assistance to rescue the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Brown said he had approached the British government to discuss the possibility of military assistance. Asked if he anticipated a positive response, he said: “I think people will want to help, yes.”
Stressing the urgency of locating the kidnapped girls, Brown told The Guardian: “The international community must do something to protect these girls. We could provide military help to the Nigerians to track down the whereabouts of the girls before they’re dispersed throughout Africa– like air support, for example, if that was thought necessary.”
Brown declined to say whether he planned to travel to Borno State where the girls were kidnapped.
He said his intention was to support Jonathan. “I’m not prepared to criticise the Nigerian government. We’re dealing with a group of terrorists who have kidnapped children … The sensible way of dealing with this is to help the Nigerian government to deal with a problem in their own country that is very substantial.”
“Two hundred girls have been abducted, kidnapped, taken into a forest area and their parents don’t know whether they are about to be murdered, or used as sex slaves, or about to be trafficked into other countries,” said Brown.
Relatives told The Guardian that the girls had been forced into marriage. “We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls. They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants,” said Samson Dawah, a retired teacher whose niece Saratu was among those kidnapped.
Brown added: “For years now, girls in northern Nigeria have been prevented from going to school by terrorists and by the failure to protect them in safety. We’ve seen hundreds of girls and boys who’ve been murdered over recent years.”
In his capacity as United Nations special envoy on education, he said, he would be urging the Nigerian government to take measures, with international support, to make schools more accessible and safer.
More than 10 million children in Nigeria did not attend school, Brown said. As well as widespread barriers to children’s attendance – including child labour, child marriage, child trafficking and discrimination against girls – he added that in northern Nigeria there was “a persistent campaign to deprive children of the opportunity to go to school as part of the wider aims of Boko Haram”.
The jihadi group was responsible for “probably 5,000 deaths” in northern Nigeria in the past five years, “including a very large number of pupils, because a target of Boko Haram is to go into schools to bomb and to burn them”. Boko Haram means “western education is a sin”.
Children, said Brown, should “not be afraid of having to go to school in the face of terrorism”. He added that schools should be protected places, like hospitals, under the auspices of the UN or Red Cross.