Chibok Girls: Our Goals Are The Same, FG Tells BBOG

 

The Federal Government has said it has the same goal as the Bring Back

Our Girls (BBOG) group, which is to secure the safe return of the

Chibok girls.

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made

the assertion on a special programme to mark Nigeria’s 56th

independence anniversary on Channels Television on Saturday night,

noted, said the federal government’s commitment to bringing back the

girls is not in doubt.

 

”I want the Bring Back Our Girls to understand that this government

appreciates what they are doing. We are all batting on the same side

and we are as concerned as they are and we are well ready to work with

you. Clearly we need a closer working relationship so that there will

be no communication gap. Clearly, I do not see the objective of the

BBOG group as different from ours,” said the Minister, who appeared

side by side with the BBOG Co-Convener, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili.

 

While reiterating the President’s statement that there will be no

closure to the Boko Haram issue until the Chibok girls are released

and returned safely to their families, he noted that apart from the

parents of the girls, no other individual or group has a higher stake

in the release of the girls than the Federal Government.

 

Alhaji Mohammed said there is no contradiction between the fact that

Boko Haram has been defeated and the fact that the girls remain in

captivity.

 

“There shall be no closure on the Boko Haram issue until and when the

Chibok girls are released and returned to the safety of their

families. I think that does not contradict what Mr President has said

that we have defeated Boko. Of course anybody who is familiar with the

philosophy of insurgency will understand that it is not the regular

kind of war where you sign an armistice and the guns become silent

forever, but rather it is a kind of guerrilla war.

 

”But what Mr President said, which cannot be contradicted, is that as

of May 29, 2015, when he took over, we had a chunk of our territory in

the hands of Boko Haram. As at 2015, a part of the Northeast could not

be accessed because of the activities of the terrorists, but the same

cannot be said about the area today,” he said.

 

The Minister said it is necessary to situate the Chibok saga within

the proper context, noting that the girls have been in captivity for

over 400 days before the Buhari Administration came into power, yet

there have been attempts by the government to establish contact with

Boko Haram to secure their release (but) the factionalization within

the terror group made it difficult for the deal to go through.

 

“I want us to put things in correct perspective. Yes, the issue of the

kidnap or abduction of the Chibok girls is one that should affect

everybody, it is not out of place for anyone to be emotional about it

but at the same time we must be rational in our approach to the issue.

Yes, today might be 901 days since the girls were abducted but it must

also be understood that these girls were abducted 400 days before this

government came to power, this must not be forgotten and by the time

we came in, the trails had gone cold. The first 48 hours after any kidnapping

constitute the most critical period.

 

“If you listen to my press conference some weeks ago with respect to

the failed negotiations, it is clear that every occasion starting from

the one in August 2015 where for 10 days we were at the appointed

point where Boko Haram fighters were supposed to be exchanged with the

Chibok girls, the factionalisation of Boko Haram played a key role in

our inability to secure the release of the girls,” he said.

 

Alhaji Mohammed said the fact that the President approved the deal to

exchange even some Boko Haram armourers for the girls is the clearest

indication yet of his unflinching commitment to securing their

release.

 

He also said there is no contradiction between the President’s

statement that there is so far no credible leadership of the Boko

Haram to engage with and the fact that the government has tried three

times to strike a deal for the release of their girls.

 

”Like I explained at that press conference, right from the time when

we were approached that Boko Haram leadership wanted to exchange the

girls for their people, Mr President was quite worried because they

(Boko Haram) insisted that some of the terrorists who were actually

the masterminds behind the bombings should be included on the list of

those to be released. Despite that, the president accepted and the

entire process was activated but for 10 days we were there and there

was breakdown of communication and nothing was achieved. So that was

what Mr President meant when he said ‘yes we are ready to negotiate

but that we need a credible leadership to engage with’,” the Minister

said.

 

Segun Adeyemi

SA to Hon Minister of Information and Culture

Abuja

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