NIGERIA – Parents protesting the failure of the Federal Government to rescue over 200 schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram sect in Chibok in 2014 have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately rescue the girls from captivity or resign.
The parents, who joined the #BringBackOurGirls coalition on Thursday for another protest march to the Presidential Villa, were again stopped by armed policemen.
A representative of the parents, Rev. Enoch Mark, accused the Federal Government of not doing enough to rescue the girls, saying the government should negotiate for their release.
Mark, whose two daughters were among the 219 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, said he suffered a stroke while worrying about his daughters.
He insisted that Buhari must negotiate with Boko Haram for the release of the schoolgirls.
He said, “We cast our votes for Buhari because he promised to rescue our girls. Now, the parents are asking you, Mr. President, to meet the insurgents and make a decision.
“Either use the military force or go for negotiation; some countries are ready to give you a helping hand. What are you waiting for? Are you not interested in bringing back our girls?
“We have intelligence agencies in Nigeria; there is nothing in this country that they don’t know. Why didn’t you give them orders to bring back our girls?
“Are you not a General? You know what is happening and you know where our daughters are. Buhari, if you feel that you are incapable of rescuing the girls, step down now and give it (power) to someone else. We have many intelligent persons in the country who can handle this situation. You cannot tell us that you don’t know where the girls are.”
Mark, who uses a walking stick, accused the Federal Government of not communicating with the parents of the abducted girls.
He cited the Malaysian government’s handling of the Malaysian MH370 air crash, noting that the government regularly communicated with the families of the crash victims during the incident.
“For two months now, I have not been able to sleep; I had stroke while thinking of my two daughters. General Buhari, had your daughters been among these girls, how will you feel? How will you feel with your daughter in enemies’ hands? You are responsible for the rescue of these girls. You are responsible for my daughters’ safety.
“When the Malaysian plane crashed, the Malaysian government was in touch with the families of the victims, but you are not talking to Chibok girls’ parents,” he added.
The aggrieved father said Buhari did not empathise with the Chibok parents when they visited him at the Presidential Villa in January.
“You intimidated us; you said you were frustrated, you were not happy with us. Are we not Nigerians? If Buhari feels he does not know (the girls’ location), let him step down and hand over to someone else,” Mark added.
The Co-convener, BBOG, Oby Ezekwesili, who read a statement on behalf of the group, said the members would march to the Presidential Villa again in 72 hours if there was no positive response from the Federal Government.
The group noted the attack on Shawa Village in the Askira Uba Local Government Area of Borno State and acknowledged the courage and gallantry of the soldiers in the frontlines, including the Multinational Joint Task Force and the Civilian JTF, and urged them to remain resilient in the face of attacks.
The BBOG called for an investigation into the handling of salaries and emoluments of troops, saying complaints about their poor feeding and allowances were unacceptable.
It challenged the government to demonstrate the political will to rescue the girls by taking a definite action on the issue.
It said, “Reports from a former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, after a meeting with Mr. President suggest that the Federal Government’s position remains a lack of credible intelligence.
“Coming over seven months since our engagement with Mr. President on January 14, and considering the lack of feedback on rescue efforts, this strengthens the position that there has been no focused, coherent and consistent operation to rescue our girls.
“Having submitted four cogent reasons why it could not be said that there is a lack of credible intelligence during our meeting in January, and three further reasons just three days ago, the discussion must shift from credible intelligence to political will to decide on a line of action.”
The BBOG said the claim by the military that it had fatally injured Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, made it the fourth time that the security forces had announced that they had killed the terrorist.
Also, the Chibok community, in a statement by its spokesman, Dr Manasseh Allen, reiterated its calls for negotiation with Boko Haram for the release of the girls.
It said the escape of one of the girls, Amina Ali, in May 2016 had bridged the gap of absence of intelligence and called on the government and its agencies to live up to their duties.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom pledged to do whatever it could to assist in finding the girls.
The UK High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, said this when the BBOG members met with him in Abuja.
He said, “UK stands in solidarity with the Chibok people; the girls are global citizens; so, we will do whatever we can to partner the Nigerian government to help find the girls.”
Attempts to speak with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, proved abortive as his phone rang out.
He had yet to reply to a text message sent to his mobile phone as of press time.
‘Buhari has not given up on Chibok girls’
The Presidency on Thursday said the Federal Government has not given up on the Chibok girls.
It said Buhari’s heart was with the girls and their parents.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
He said efforts to find the abducted girls would continue.
The presidential spokesman said, “The President’s heart is with the Chibok girls and their parents. He understands their feelings.
“The government has not given up on the missing girls. Efforts to find them will continue.
“So far, the country’s gallant and re-energised military has taken back more than 20,000 citizens held hostage by the terrorists.
“In the last couple of days, the Nigerian Air Force carried out a successful raid in which 300 terrorists were killed. The leader of the terrorists, Shekau, was injured.
“Boko Haram, which killed above 20,000 citizens is on the retreat. Government’s efforts to end terrorism and brigandage all over the country will continue.”