■ Nigerians tired of excuses –Activists
From MAGNUS EZE, Molly Kilete, Abuja, Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri and TUNDE THOMAS, Lagos
The Federal Government yesterday gave reasons why the abducted Chibok school girls were still being held by the Boko Haram insurgents.
It blamed chiefly, the split in the camp of the insurgents as the major stumbling block to securing the freedom of the girls.
Addressing journalists in Abuja while giving update on the abducted girls and government’s efforts at wrapping up their release, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed that previous efforts had failed because the insurgents reneged on the terms of agreement reached.
The minister stated that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration had on assumption of office on May 29, last year swung into action, establishing contacts with the insurgents, leading to a scheduled swap of the girls with some detained fighters of the group in the first week of August.
This arrangement however, failed because the insurgents raised new demands. That notwithstanding, he assured that the security agencies, since the beginning of this year have not only remained committed, but have also taken the lead to resolve the Chibok girls’ issue.
“In spite of the current division amongst members of the terrorist group, which has seriously affected efforts to release the girls, renewed efforts have commenced using our trusted assets and facilitators. However, this job requires diligence and ability to deal with a group that can easily change its demands without notice.
“Officers and men have sacrificed their time and energy, and some have already paid the supreme price since the abduction of the Chibok girls, fighting for the safe release of the girls. Many friendly countries and organisations have equally been very forthcoming in providing human and technological resources to assist in the process. They are still doing so. We cannot as a nation ignore these sacrifices”, the minister stated.
He appealed to the parents and relatives of the Chibok girls that government was with them, adding, “we feel your pains and shall not relent until we succeed in bringing home our girls and every other citizen abducted by the group. It is important to appeal to all those who have shown concern in resolving this matter to continue to trust the efforts of government to deal with the situation.”
The minister equally gave insight into why the previous administration also failed in securing the release of the Chibok girls before the 2015 handover, attributing it to what he called strong competing interests and unnecessary rivalries.
Mohammed revealed that the Department of State Service (DSS) and the other security agencies had in June last year observed that, “many persons or groups posing as negotiators actually had no veritable intelligence nor the reach to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls.
“The efforts were clouded by persons with very partisan interests and whose main objective was solely to score cheap political points. It was obvious their approach had no relevance to the release of the girls.
“Some informants or persons volunteering to be negotiators or facilitators saw and treated the girls’ fate and indeed the situation as a conduit to enrich themselves, thus making the whole thing a pecuniary venture; and
“As a result of the conflicting and partisan interests, issues were muddled up to the extent that reasonable and fruitful leads either failed or simply came too late for any useful action”.
Reacting to government’s statement, two prominent Nigerian activist-lawyers, Fred Agbaje, and Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa have told the Federal Government to stop giving excuses over the continued detention of Chibok girls by the Boko-Haram.
While expressing shock and disappointment at the recent excuse by government, the lawyers accused the Federal Government of betraying not only the parents of the Chibok girls but the entire nation.
Calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians over the continuing incarceration of the girls, Adegboruwa accused the President and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC ) of making the girls’ release one of its campaign promises only for the party to turn around and start giving excuses over government’s inability to rescue the girls.
“Enough is enough. Nigeria are tired of excuses. What Nigerians want is for these girls being held captives by the Boko Haram to be released. We want them to be re-united with their parents. Federal government should not feel ashamed to confess that its forces are incapable of securing the release of the girls.
They should seek foreign assistance over this isssue’’, Adegboruwa declared.
Commending the former Minister for Education, Oby Ezekwesili and other free Chibok Girls campaigners, Adegboruwa however, urged them not to relent until the girls are set free.
In his own views, Agbaje berated Federal government for being unable to achieve any tangible result over the issue up till now.
“It is a big shame that Chibok girls have remained incommunicado. This is a big shame on our leaders. It showed that APC leaders were just making promises, which they can’t fulfill. My own view is that no more time should be wasted, Nigeria should seek foreign assistance. Our own intelligence agencies have failed.
In their reaction, the Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG team said through their spokesperson, Abdullahi Abubakar
“It’s a start. We have been asking for feedback on the rescue efforts. We welcome factual communication and hope this signals a period of continuous feedback. We will monitor progress and act accordingly.”