This Day (Lagos)

17 May 2014

Nigeria: Fragile Security Forces Jonathan to Abort Visit to Chibok

Photo: Présidence de la République
West African presidents meet at the invitation of President Francois Hollande of France.

The fragile security situation in Borno State might have accounted for the decision of President Goodluck Jonathan to abort yesterday's planned visit to Chibok, Borno State where over 200 schoolgirls were abducted by the terrorist Boko Haram sect.

However, the Special Adviser to Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati and the coordinator of National Information Centre on Security, Mr. Mike Omeri debunked the story, insisting that no such visit was planned by the President.

Though there was no official confirmation of the president's planned visit to Chibok, it was reliably gathered that the president had planned to visit Chibok friday, and after the visit proceed to Paris, for the regional security summit summoned by French President Francois Hollande.

Further checks indicated that the president's advance team had already left Abuja on Thursday for Maiduguri ahead of his arrival friday.

Then, yesterday morning, government officials that were to travel with Jonathan were seen at the airport while policemen were deployed to airport road before the trip was cancelled.

The alleged mutiny few days ago by soldiers at Maimalari Barrack in Maiduguri over the killing of their colleagues who were ambushed by Boko Haram was said to have contributed to the decision to shelve the visit to Chibok. During the alleged mutiny, some soldiers were said to have shot into the air while their Commander was addressing them. Some were also alleged to have shot the GOC's car.

If friday's visit to Chibok by Jonathan took place, it would have been a first by the president since the girls were abducted. Sources said Jonathan was to visit the village yesterday to boost the low morale of parents of the abducted girls and personally assure them that government would in no distant time rescue the girls. Sources added that he also wanted to use the opportunity to assess the situation in the school and the village.

There was no such plan by the President But twitting on friday, Abati said the reports that his boss would be in Chibok was not true, saying there was no plan by the president to visit the area.

"Every trip by the President is usually pre-announced. The Presidency did not at any time announce a trip to Chibok today. Ignore rumours. "The statement issued by my office friday, indicated very clearly that the President is scheduled to travel to Paris today. "It is therefore wrong and malicious to allege that a non-existent trip had been cancelled," Abati twitted.

In his own comment, Omeri while giving situation report on the rescue mission for the abducted girls and other salient security matters, said the report about the President's visit to Chibok did not emanate from any government source or any source known to the centre.

"As it is the practice in Nigeria, presidential trips or visits are always pre-announced to the public by the presidential spokesman, which is not the case in this, and this is sad.

Even before now, a number of similar information have gone out to the press and were widely reported in Nigeria and abroad. It looks like a trend where such information always finds it way into the media," he said.

Giving update on the rescue mission, Omeri said the government with the assistance of the international community was working assiduously to achieve success and restore normalcy in the region, adding that the Nigerian military and the foreign allies are collaborating without hindrance.

"Troops are out there combing the forest and other possible locations searching for our fellow citizens, international support is also there assisting, as for the President visiting Chibok, we have not ruled out that possibility, it is entirely within the purview of his office," Omeri added.

He however advised politicians to desist from playing politics with the lives of innocent Nigerians in the hands of terrorists. "We should not politicise terror. Since we came here, no politician has joined us to discuss these issues. We have not made political statements here; we have remained within the purview of political consciousness and we are pursuing the agenda of Nigeria as instructed by the president of Nigeria."

Speaking on the recent attack on Government Girls Secondary School Yana, Bauchi State by unknown gunmen, Omeri said there was a standing order by the government that schools vulnerable to attacks should be closed, adding that those who flaunt the order should be questioned.

Papers to repatriate Ogwuche almost complete Omeri also announced that there had been progress made in the efforts to repatriate from Sudan, fugitive Sadiq Ogwuche, the co-mastermind of Nyanya Bus Park bombing.

He explained that the necessary papers needed to be perfected for this action were almost done. He also debunked insinuations that there were no coordination between Nigerian troops and members of the international military involved in the search and rescue efforts for the girls.

Omeri confirmed the heavy presence of Nigerian troops inside the notorious Sambisa Forest, and "that is why there are constant reports of battle between the troops and Boko Haram fighters.

According to him, there are presently two army divisions inside the garrison in Maiduguri along with other military and paramilitary forces dedicated to battling the terrorists.

'Foreign assistance won't compromise our sovereignty' The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Adesola Amosu fridays said Nigeria's decision to seek foreign assistance in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency would not comprise the sovereignty of the country.

Amosu stated this at the Headquarters, Nigerian Air Force (NAF) during the decoration ceremony of 12 newly-promoted air warrant officers.

He said seeking foreign assistance was not a strange as nations stand together against terrorism, noting that the federal government was happy taking the option.

"It is not what will compromise our sovereignty. We are still working as a nation. They will provide information and if you want extra they will provide for it. I think they will be ready to give all", he said.

The CAS further explained that during the ECOMOG operations in Liberia, ECOWAS got assistance in terms of information. "We are going to recognise credible international partnership. So, it is not strange. It is what we have put on paper and is happening today. We are happy."

He insisted that the armed forces are well paid and motivated contrary to what was being reported as the cause of the mutiny being lack of motivation.

"Let me be clear about issue of motivation not just in the NAF but the armed forces; officers are well motivated. Don't forget in any society, no matter what you give them they will ask for more. We have machineries in place for people seeking for more unduly", he explained.

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