Cape Town – A continental think tank, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), has said that the issue of the missing Chibok girls in Nigeria continues to be a litmus test for the President Muhammadu Buhari's government, with the world watching to see whether the 275 girls would be rescued.
Speaking during an interview with News24, ISS's senior researcher Martin Ewi said Buhari's government was under pressure to find a solution.
"There is no empirical evidence regarding where these girls are. All we have is speculative and very scanty intelligence on where they might be. We also have media reports that cannot be substantive.
"Some in northern Nigeria say they could be in the Sambisa forest or that they could have been hidden in tunnels that were dug by Boko Haram militants. So with all these speculations, it's difficult for the intelligence, which uses drones and other equipment to detect their whereabouts," Ewi said.
No substantial intelligence
Boko Haram last week released a video of the girls allegedly abducted from Chibok in April 2014, showing some were still alive and claiming that others had been killed in air strikes.
The video was the latest release from the embattled Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, who earlier this month denied claims that he had been replaced as the leader of the jihadist group.
"They should know that their children are still in our hands," said a man, whose face was covered by a turban, in the video posted on YouTube.
Reports on Monday, however, indicated that the Nigerian Air Force had confirmed it had no substantial intelligence on the location of the missing girls.
Chief of Air Staff Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar said that there was no concrete intelligence on the missing girls, dismissing the video as "cheap propaganda" by the extremist organisation.
"Honestly, we don’t. That is the truth of the matter. Even if you see women that are dressed in hijab, how are you sure they are women, that they are not men… There is no credible intelligence that will specifically tell you that the girls are here," Abubakar was quoted as saying.
The honest truth
Ewi said that it was highly unlikely that Nigeria would be able to bring all the kidnapped girls to Chibok.
"We will never get all the girls. That’s the honest truth we have to live with. It has taken too long and the longer it takes, the lesser the chances of locating them. It would be surprising if the girls are still in one place.
"The chances are very slim. Some of them have probably been married off to other Boko Haram militants in Cameroon and Chad, as reports have indicated in the past," said Ewi.
He said it would a big breakthrough for the government if the girls were found, but otherwise "for now, it remains an embarrassment for Buhari to keep saying his government would be able to locate them when in actually fact nothing tangible has been done".