Daily Trust (Abuja)

14 July 2014

Nigeria: Why It's Difficult to Rescue Chibok Girls - Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan says the great challenge in rescuing the abducted schoolgirls of Chibok, Borno State, is the need to rescue alive.

Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, in a statement, said Jonathan disclosed today while meeting 17-year-old Pakistani advocate of girls' education rights, Malala Yousafzai.

Abati said the president described the notion that the government had not been doing enough to find and rescue the abducted Chibok girls as very wrong and misplaced and noted that the government was definitely doing everything possible to ensure that the girls were rescued alive and safely returned to their parents.

He said Jonathan however explained to Malala that the government's efforts were constrained by the overriding imperative of ensuring that the girls' lives were not endangered in any rescue attempt.

Abati quoted Jonathan as saying: "Terror is relatively new here and dealing with it has its challenges. The great challenge in rescuing the Chibok girls is the need to ensure that they are rescued alive".

He said the president stressed that the Federal Government and the security agencies were very mindful of the need to avoid the scenario in rescue attempts in other parts of the world where lives of abductees were lost in the effort to rescue them.

According to Abati, the president said despite this challenge, the government was very actively pursuing all feasible options to achieve the safe return of the abducted girls.

"The time it is taking to achieve that objective is not a question of the competence of the Nigerian Government. We've had teams from the United States, Britain, France, Israel and other friendly nations working with us here on the rescue effort and they all appreciate the challenges and the need to thread carefully to achieve our purpose," Jonathan was quoted to have said.

Abati said Jonathan also told Malala that he fully empathised with the girls' parents' pain and anguish and that he would meet with the parents himself before they left Abuja to personally comfort them and reassure them that the government was doing all within its powers to rescue their daughters.

He said the president also reiterated his administration's commitment to ensuring the safe and proper education of all Nigerian children.

"I personally believe that since about 50 per cent of our population are female, we will be depriving ourselves of half of our available human resources if we fail to educate our girls adequately or suppress their ambitions in any way. We are therefore taking steps to curb all forms of discrimination against girls and women, and have also undertaken many affirmative actions on their behalf,"Jonathan was quoted to have said.

According to Abati, Jonathan said that his government was also proactively evolving and implementing policies and measures that would benefit the abducted Chibok girls when they are safely rescued as well as others adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.

"These, President Jonathan said, included the establishment of a Victims' Support Fund, the Safe Schools Initiative and the Presidential Initiative for the North East. He announced that he would inaugurate a National Committee to oversee fundraising for the Victims' Support Fund, which will also cater for families of security men and women who have lost their lives in the war against terrorism, on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The President thanked Malala for coming to Nigeria to support ongoing efforts to rescue the abducted Chibok girls and promote girl-child education", Abati said.

"We appreciate your efforts to change the world positively through your powerful advocacy for girl-child education,"the president was also quoted to have said.

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