- 4 more missing girls ‘return to parents’
From Mustapha Isa Kwaru, Maiduguri & Stanley Onyekwere, Abuja
Trouble ensued yesterday in Abuja as a group of suspected thugs unleashed mayhem on the popular #BringBackOurGirls protesters, in an attempt to disrupt their meeting at the Unity Fountain, the usual venue of their meetings.
A new group of women and men under the aegis of Grand Alliance Against Terrorism (GAAT), with its slogan as #ReleaseOurGirlsNow, emerged four days ago in Abuja, and is widely believed to have been sponsored by the federal government to counter, and if possible, halt the #BringBackOurGirls movement that has brought the attention of the entire world to the government’s failure to tackle the Boko Haram menace.
The new group emerged after the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners, otherwise referred to as the Abuja Family, have been holding rallies and street sit-meetings for 29 days.
Unconfirmed reports said the new group is enjoying huge funding running into N150 million from the government, and some of them were alleged to have started fighting over the sharing formula. But members of the group were quick to deny this allegation.
Our reporter learnt that trouble started when the #BringBackOurGirls group arrived the for their meeting yesterday and encountered some ‘boys’ from the new group singing and clapping, at the spot the former protesters were holding their daily meetings at the Unity Fountain.
In what appears an attempt to stop the #BringBackOurGirls protesters from holding their meeting, the suspected thugs provided security cover for members of the new campaigners who staged a rally, backing government with the #ReleaseOurGirlsNow slogan, swaying round members of the older group and singing: “Wherever Bokos are gathered, Holy Ghost fire pursue them”.
However, the situation suddenly degenerated into a serious fracas when the old group led by former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, tried to repel the perceived aggression towards their group.
“They came and beat up our women, and used the plastic chairs on them; broke the chairs; they broke bottles; they threw all kinds of things over the head of very civil women and men.
“But since on Monday, we have noticed that bus-loads of people are brought to the Unity Fountain, to stage similar protests against the abduction of the Chibok girls, which we have written the police to
indicate that there was a rising trend of aggression towards our meeting. This was received in the IG’s office as well as the (FCT Police) commissioner’s office.
“We have conducted ourselves with utmost civility in the course of our campaign for rescue of the abducted Chibok girls at the Unity Fountain, near Maitama Amusement Park, where we have held our rallies and meetings until Maitama Amusement Park was locked and we were locked out of it”, Ezekwesili said.
She added that: “While we appreciate their right to embark on protest, as every citizen has a right to express their right on any position or issue of public concern. We do not in any way have a problem with that.
“In fact, they have taken over where we used to stay, and we moved away from that location, and found another part of the Unity Fountain.
And yet they would not let us be, since the last three days; it culminated into today’s (yesterday’s) action of beating up people”, she further lamented.
According to the former minister, on May 30, it would be exactly one month since her group started its protests, and not once have they engaged in any scuffle with anyone, just as she rejected the idea of directing protests at the terrorists.
However, a member of the new group, Hafsat Mohammed, was vehement in dying allegations that the GAAT is being funded by the government. She told the Hausa service of the BBC yesterday that they were volunteers who personally committed themselves to restoring peace in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, four more Chibok schoolgirls out of the 223 still being held by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno state have re-united with their parents, Borno Commissioner for Education, Musa Inuwa Kubo, has disclosed.
A total of 276 girls were initially said to have been kidnapped based on reports by the Borno State Police Commissioner, Lawan Tanko and the state Director of the State Security Service (SSS), Mohammed Ahmed, even as 53 escaped and 228 were missing.
However, with the four girls found, the number of those missing stood at 219 and those found were 57.
According to sources, Kubo made the latest disclosure when he appeared before the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on Abducted Chibok girls on Friday at the committee’s sitting in Maiduguri.
The commissioner said the four girls were discovered after Governor Kashim Shettima directed the Ministry of Education to open data pages for families of all the girls which should include names and pictures of the girls, class, age etc as well the pictures of parents.
It was learnt that during the data capturing and visits to parents, it was discovered that the four girls, who were among those declared missing, had re-united with their parents but the parents failed to inform the school authority.
The commissioner was said to have been furious with the parents for keeping the government in the dark. The four girls are believed to be amongst those that escaped to the bush and lost direction during the attack and abduction.