Nigeria’s president told parents of 110 abducted schoolgirls he ordered all military and security agencies to search for them, in his first visit to their home town since suspected Islamist militants took them a month ago.
Muhammadu Buhari – who made security a cornerstone of his 2015 election win – promised a renewed offensive against Boko Haram militants defended his government’s record on limiting their territory.
“I’ve directed the army, air force, police, DSS and the rest of the security agencies to find the girls wherever they are,” he said at the start of tour of security hotspots across Nigeria.
Security is a politically charged issue with less than a year until the next election, scheduled for February 2019. Buhari has not said if he will seek a second term.
The attack on Dapchi in Yobe state on February 19 was the biggest mass abduction since Boko Haram took more than 270 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014.
Earlier in the day, Buhari told people in Yobe state capital, Damaturu, government would not rest until the last girl kidnapped by insurgents is released.
Boko Haram, which has killed tens of thousands of people since 2009 in its bid to create an Islamic state, lost most of its territory in the face of an offensive by Nigeria’s army backed by troops from neighbouring countries in early 2015.
Factions continue to carry out suicide bomb attacks and gun raids in the north-east, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Buhari said Boko Haram had controlled large parts of the north-east before the crackdown. “But now, they only resort to bombing, killing, brainwashing young girls for bombing in mosques, churches, markets and motor parks.”
That marked a shift from past statements when he said Boko Haram was totally defeated.
The 75-year-old former military ruler promised a new push in the offensive. “Federal government will use all its power to direct the Nigerian Army, air force and all security agencies to see to the end of insurgency and bring peace to the country,” he said.
Nigeria has also seen clashes between herders and farmers in other areas in recent months and is trying to maintain a fragile peace in the Niger Delta where militant attacks on oil facilities helped to push Africa’s biggest economy into a recession in 2016.