The British High Commission in Abuja has debunked a report by London-based Observer newspaper, which reported at the weekend that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan rejected the offer by the British Royal Armed Force (RAF) to help rescue over 200 Chibok schoolgirls, when they were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.
In response to enquiries by THISDAY’s sister broadcast station, Arise News Network, the British High Commission on Tuesday said the allegation that the RAF was over the area for a number of months and actually located the girls within weeks, but the Nigerian government under former President Jonathan turned down its offer to rescue the girls, “was false”.
Also reinforcing this, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Security Council and head of the delegation to the Lake Chad region, Ambassador Mathew Rycroft, dismissed the allegation when the question was put forward to him during a press briefing on Monday.
“The British High Commissioner briefed me on that today (Monday) and said that the allegations are not true,” Rycroft said.
When pressed for further clarifications by Arise TV, he directed all enquiries to the British High Commissioner to Nigeria.
However, the British High Commission, in its statement, said “a more cordial, collaborative and unified approach between Nigeria and her allies than the reported differences was used”.
The statement added: “UK worked with the US and France to provide a range of military and intelligence support to the Nigerian government in their search (for the Chibok girls), and in fact, a wider effort to address the longer term challenge of terrorism.
“But importantly, we won’t comment on specific additional details, which is a matter for the Nigerian government and the military.”
Jonathan, in reaction to the story, has already dismissed the allegation as patently false.
Speaking on the overall objective of the visit, Rycroft said the Boko Haram crisis was “one of the most neglected crisis and we want to shine a spotlight on that crisis”.
The envoy also urged the global community including the governments of the Lake Chad region to step up and respond to the crisis before it is too late.
“Part of that crisis is terrorism and we stand with the government and people of this region and particularly the government of Nigeria in confronting Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin region.
“The UN Security Council applauds the works of the MNJTF.
“Talking about the UN sending a peacekeeping force: that has not been requested by the government of Nigeria, I am aware. That we can do as a bilateral agreement with the government of Nigeria,” he added.
Also, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Ambassador Edward Kalom, said that the magnitude of the crisis in Nigeria was of global concern.
Kalom said that UN had mapped out strategies to reach 6.9 million of the most affected internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in the North-east, out of the 8.5 million that need humanitarian assistance before the 2019 general election.
He said: “We are talking about 14 million people that are affected by the Boko Haram crisis in North-east Nigeria and about 8.5 million of these people need urgent humanitarian assistance.
“And the UN has prepared a 2017 humanitarian plan to reach about 6.9 million of the most affected people in North-east Nigeria and I want to repeat that we have a timeline of 18 months to address the serious humanitarian situation in the region.
“This is because after 18 months, the government of Nigeria will be busy with elections. And elections in this clime may affect how we address the humanitarian crisis.
“And in this regard, we congratulate the government of Nigeria and Cameroun for signing the tripartite agreement with the UNHCR last week.”