In light of the continued inability to find and liberate the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped two weeks ago by the notorious terrorist group known as Boko Haram, Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, called on both the Government of Nigeria and the U.S. Government to immediately collaborate in addressing this latest terrorist crisis.
Smith, who visited Nigeria last September and heard from victims of the terrorist group firsthand, returned to Washington and introduced the ‘‘Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act of 2013,’’H.Res. 3209. In November, the State Department agreed to make the declaration at a November 13, 2013, House hearing chaired by Smith. The declaration was sparked by his resolution and discussions with U.S. and Nigerian officials during his September 20-25, 2013, visit.
“During our visit to Nigeria last September, it was clear that the U.S. Government was providing assistance in the fight against Boko Haram, but the Nigerian government was failing to effectively utilize the resources at hand,” Smith said. “Various agencies refused to cooperate with one another, and the agency established to seek a truce with Boko Haram was being undercut by elements of the government that opposed any such action. The result has been a muddled, ineffective effort. And now there are the lives of over 200 girls at stake. The efforts to save them and confront Boko Haram must result in strong actions.”
Chairman Smith called on the Administration to use its expanded authority under the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation to work more closely with the Government of Nigeria.
On April 14, 2014, more than 270 girls were kidnapped from the Chibok Girls Secondary School in northeastern Nigeria by militants identified as being members of Boko Haram. According to Nigerian Police Commissioner Tanko Lawan, as many as 53 girls have escaped captivity and have returned home, while more than 220 other are believed to be still held by terrorists, who reportedly are selling them into marriage to Boko Haram militants for as little as $12 American dollars each. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged American support in finding and freeing the girls, but Nigerian officials admit they do not know where the girls are. At least some of the kidnapped girls may have been trafficked to Cameroon because the convoy of trucks leaving the school was headed to a forest area bordering that neighboring country.
After a year-long congressional campaign to achieve a U.S. declaration of Boko Haram and its affiliate organization Ansaru as a FTO, the U.S. State Department made the declaration at Smith’s November 2013 hearing. Administration officials have been measured in their efforts to provide assistance due to a lack of Nigerian interagency cooperation and human rights issues involving Nigerian forces involved in anti-Boko Haram effort. Smith also held ahearing in 2012 on Nigeria.