- Restates vow to rescue abducted girls
By Ochiaka Ugwu
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday pledged to rebuild the troubled Chibok town in Borno state where over 200 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.
Jonathan made the pledge in the Presidential Villa in Abuja, while meeting with 51 Chibok schoolgirls who escaped from their Boko Haram captors, as well as parents of the abductees.
Although the meeting was held behind closed doors, speaking to newsmen after the parley, Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, said the president assured that after the battle has been won and the girls are rescued and returned home, he, together with the parents and the Borno state government would focus on development.
According to Abati: “Mr. President further assured that after the battle has been won and the girls are brought back home, he, together with the parents and the state government will focus on development, on building Chibok, on building all that the terrorists had destroyed and on ensuring that every child, either in Chibok or in any other part of the country, has his/her dream realized”.
Abati confirmed that the parents of the girls that escaped and those still in captivity, were present at the meeting.
He noted that the meeting was an interactive one with the president having the opportunity to listen first hand to the various victims.
“It was an interactive session during which the president had the opportunity to listen first hand to the various categories of persons.
It was a very successful event and a good development because Mr. President had always been looking forward to this opportunity. Before now he had met with various stakeholders on the matter but today he heard directly from the persons involved.
“Statements were made by all the representatives of people. They spoke their minds and conveyed their feelings to the president. The girls who escaped also gave an account of what they went through”, he said.
Abati maintained that President Jonathan also reiterated his commitment to ensuring the release of other abductees. “Mr. President reassured them of the federal government’s determination and his own personal determination to ensure that the girls that are still in captivity are brought out alive. That is the main objective of the government.
“Mr. President also used the opportunity to empathise with the parents and the girls, and to reassure them that everything will be done to make things easier for them, especially those who have escaped and the ones that will also be rescued; that their education will not in any way suffer and he is convinced that evil will never prevail over good”, the spokesman added.
Yesterday’s meeting appears to have signaled the beginning of a good working relationship between the federal and Borno state governments towards the fight against insurgency and release of the abducted girls, as the Chibok team was led by Governor Kashim Shettima to the meeting. Before now, both the federal and Borno state governments have been working at a crossroads.
Also at the closed-door meeting were service chiefs, Senate President David Mark, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, as well as some members of the Federal Executive Council.
The meeting, coming about 100 days after the abduction of the over 200 girls, was in fulfilment of a promise President Jonathan made to Pakistani education activist, Malala Yousafzai, during the girl’s advocacy visit to Nigeria last week.
Malala had extracted a promise from Jonathan to meet and support the girls who escaped from their captors, while also intensifying efforts at rescuing the ones still being held. This made many Nigerians to wonder whether it must take Malala’ intervention before the president will live up to his constitutional responsibility of protecting and securing their lives.