by Kolapo Olapoju
The United Kingdom is believed to be withholding intelligence information regarding the abduction of over 200 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram from Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State, on April 14, 2014.
According to the British government, revealing details of its discovery on the location of the abducted girls would strain its relationship with Nigeria and other allies.
This was arrived at after a UK-based group, Security in Africa, wrote the British Ministry of Defence to request for information on the Chibok girls.
Founder of the group, Ben Oguntala said: “The information was sent on January 30 this year and the UK government has 20 days to comply. They do have a defence of national security and that would prevent them from disclosing the information. Let’s hope they don’t. If they rely on national security defence, we can raise the matter with the Information Commissioner’s office to determine if their claim of national security is reasonable.”
In his letter, he requested from the UK government to know the “results and reports of the British Armed Forces, the details of where they searched and the results of their findings. We also seek to have the details of the technology, technique or methodology used in the search and the consequential results.”
However, a response letter from the MOD’s Permanent Joint Headquarters in Middlesex, dated February 25, the British government said some of the information requested by the group “falls entirely within the scope of the qualified exemption provided for at section 27 (International Relations) of the FOIA and has been withheld.”
It said: “Section 27 is a qualified exemption and is subject to public interest testing which means that the information requested can only be withheld if the public interest in doing so outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
“Section 27(1)(a), (1)(c) and (2) have been applied because some of the information has the potential to adversely affect relations with our allies. The Public Interest Test concluded that whilst release would increase public understanding and confidence in the relation the United Kingdom has with other international states in its assistance with operations, the balance of the public interest lay in withholding the information you desire.”
“We have considered it necessary to apply the higher level of prejudice against release of the exempted information at the higher level of ‘would’ rather than ‘would be likely to’ adversely affect relations with our allies.”
The British defence ministry stated that it would not release the details of where the UK soldiers searched and the results of their findings, but however, shared details of the “technology, technique or methodology” used in the search.
Apparently unimpressed by the UK government’s stance, Oguntala said his group would approach the British Prime Minister to “reveal what he can about the Chibok girls.”
He said: “I have had several persons suggesting that I drop the matter and claiming Boko Haram is being used by political players. This information request approach means if the British government declares what it knows, there will be no place for Nigerian political players to hide.”