President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday assured the country and the international community that the kidnapped female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, would be rescued and returned to their parents.
We are considering Extension of emergency rule
He also disclosed that his administration was still considering the extension of the state of emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and some parts of Adamawa State, even though he hinted at leaning towards its extension as the government is winning the war against insurgents ravaging the region.
Defends Diezani over Reps' probe
Speaking at the media chat, Jonathan also defended the minister of petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, over the probe by the House of Representatives on the allegation that she lavished N10bn on private jets, saying that the lower chamber was becoming 'dictatorial'.
He, however, discredited the claims by suspended Central Bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, noting that "if $20bn is missing, Americans will know; Nigerians will know; nobody should deceive anybody."
According to him, an audit is ongoing at both at the Senate and executive arm of government.
Jonathan who noted that he risked being called a dictator if he used 50 percent of his powers, expressed frustration at the fight against the insurgents, noting that he was bound by the rules of engagement as there was the risk of a genocide if such rules were violated.
He said: "In terms of the schoolgirls that were kidnapped getting up to three weeks now, the thing that people don't know is that since that day, April 14, when these girls were kidnapped at around 11:45 pm till today, security agents have been searching everywhere. We know that this happened in Borno State where we have the concentration of terrorists, popularly known as Boko Haram. If this thing had happened in another state, and the security personnel that moved in, the number of military men, air force, army and the police, SSS, the whole world would have seen a lot of mobilisation, but because people were already on ground it is not noticed."
He also mentioned efforts being made to find the girls.
He said, "All information that have been volunteered to us, we have used aircraft; both helicopter and other equipment that have the ability to scan and see what is on the surfaces and we have scanned, but we have seen nothing. So we promise that wherever these girls are, we will surely get them out."
He sympathised with the parents and relatives of the girls for the ordeal they are going through.
"We are all fathers or mothers. If your daughter of school age who were about to write their secondary terminal examinations, about 17 to 18-year-olds, and they are under such circumstances, it is traumatising; it is quite painful. But let us reassure them that we will get their daughters out.
"What we request is maximum cooperation from guardians and parents of these girls because up to this time, they've not been able to come clearly to give the police clear identities of the girls that are yet to return. Of course, the information we have, the police has record of 44 that have returned while the principal mentioned to me last night that 53 had returned."
He urged the school authorities and the state government to cooperate with the security agencies who will need the identities of these girls and their photographs.
He also revealed that Nigeria "was talking to all neighbouring communities, Cameroun, Niger, Chad and even across North Africa so that wherever they take these girls to, we will surely get them back."
We get the maximum cooperation from the guardians and parents. These girls disappearance cannot be another mystery that the world is unable to solve like the Malaysia aircraft."
On the extension of emergency rule he said "we are still consulting on whether to extend it. We are succeeding. I believe it is helpful for our operations. Without that the security agencies will be frustrated."
He again evaded stating when he will declare to run for president, saying "the issue of my declaration should not be a problem for Nigerians. What they should be concerned with the state of its economy, security and conduct of credible polls in 2015."
He denied ever stating that Boko Haram members or sympathisers are in his cabinet, noting that he mentioned "government" which includes the three arms of government. He cited the arrest and ongoing prosecution of a lawmaker and some security agents arrested in connection with the sect.
The president who said he had appealed for support from foreign countries, chief of which is the United States, and frowned at reports by some foreign organisations which claimed elements of human rights abuses on the part of government in the fight against insurgency.
He said on two occasions he had requested support from President Barack Obama to assist with intelligence and equipment, revealing that the military had not been adequately equipped over the last 20 years.
Nobody will negotiate with Boko Haram - Mark
President of the Senate David Mark at the weekend warned that nobody would dialogue or negotiate with Boko Haram to release the girls they abducted in Chibok on April 14.
Mark however petitioned God to touch their hearts to release the girls and boys in their custody unconditionally.
"I have been an advocate for dialogue with the Boko haram elements in this country. But things have gone absolutely beyond bound and no government will negotiate with Boko haram as long as they keep our girls and our boys.
"They must free those they have abducted unconditionally. Nobody is going to negotiate with them on that basis," he said.
Senator Mark spoke in Asaba, Delta State, during the funeral service for the late Lady Obi-Bridget Ngbelenwa Okpuno, mother of High Chief Uche Okpuno.
He stated: "The current situation in the country where some children have taken arms against their own country is totally unacceptable. Parents must share in the blame."
Nonetheless, he prayed God to touch the hearts of the abductors of the schoolgirls in Borno State to free them unconditionally, even as he insisted that negotiation was no longer an option but full military action against the perpetrators.
"They have touched the hearts and souls of Nigerians by abducting and kidnapping our children. Children are our future. They have in effect declared war on Nigeria and Nigerians. We are not going to sit down and fold our hands. The federal government must intensify military action against the perpetrators and bring the issue of Boko Haram to a logical conclusion," Senator Mark said. "They must have taken government decision to negotiate with them for weakness. They must not. The Nigerian armed forces have performed creditably well across the globe. They will do even better at home to preserve our unity and sovereignty.
"They must never test the will of the government. They must never test the will of the Nigerian armed forces. Above all, they must never test the will of the Nigerian people because we must stand united against evil."