16 July 2014

Nigeria: President Cancels Meeting With Chibok Parents, Girls, Cites Partisanship

Photo: Vanguard
Malala and President Goodluck Jonathan.

After waiting for hours for the arrival of the Chibok parents to no avail, President Goodluck Jonathan had to yesterday call off the meeting.

The parents of the over 200 schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Secondary school in Chibok, Borno State by Islamist violent sect, Boko Haram, yesterday refused to show up for the scheduled meeting at the Presidential villa, Abuja.

The visiting Pakistani Girl Child education campaigner, Malala Yousatzai had extracted a promise from President Jonathan that he will meet with the beleaguered Chibok parents whose daughter had been abducted over 90 days ago.

Following their position, Special Adviser on Public Affairs to Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe in a statement announced that the meeting with the parents of the abducted girls had been cancelled, because the parents failed to show up.

Jonathan had assured Malala during her visit to him that he was ready to meet the parents of the abducted girls.

"It now appears that our fight to get the girls of Chibok back is not only a fight against a terrorist insurgency, but also against a political opposition.

"It is with great regret that I announce the cancellation of the meeting with 12 parents of the abducted Chibok children, as well as five of the brave girls who escaped from the terrorist organization Boko Haram. I scheduled this meeting, which was to be open to the media for coverage by Nigerian and international press, to listen to their stories and to privately brief the parents and the girls on our efforts to rescue the abducted girls.

"My priority is not politics. My priority is the return of these girls. Unfortunately, political forces within the Nigerian chapter of Bring Back Our Girls have decided to take this opportunity to play politics with the situation and the grief of the parents and the girls. They should be ashamed of their actions."

"I want to be clear, this government stands with complete solidarity with the girls and their parents. We are doing everything in our power to bring back our girls. Despite the shameful and disgusting games being played by the Nigerian chapter of Bring Back Our Girls, as a father of girls, I stand ready to meet with the parents of our abducted children and the truly brave girls that have escaped this nightmare through the grace of God" Okupe said.

While speaking on the development to State House correspondents at the presidential villa, Okupe said " the meeting was scheduled for 4p.m today at the instance of the request that was made by Malala and the President graciously agreed within 24 hours to meet with them but unfortunately the BringBackOur Girls leadership prevailed on the parents of the girls, stopped them from coming therefore what happened was that they actually shunned the meeting with Mr. President because the foreign media and everybody was waiting for this meeting and since they were no longer coming and they made it expressly clear that they were no longer coming, infact that the girls were just few minutes away from Chibok, the meeting was aborted.

"It was aborted by the failure of the girls and the parents to show up, they actually shun the meeting, the President was waiting, the NSA was waiting, top government officials were waiting to receive them for private consultation with the President as promised.

"We are just coming from the President and he has authorized that an official letter be written to the parents inviting them to formally to come and meet him and it is going to be sometime next week" He added.

It was gathered however that the Chibok parents shunned the meeting because they were persuaded by Abuja-based Chibok stakeholders who argued that the nine fathers and five Chibok girls were not representative enough of the over 200 distressed parents whose daughters were abducted. Some of the said stakeholders were those arrested allegedly on the orders of the First Lady when the abduction saga newly broke.

The stakeholders had reasoned that the larger chunk of parents back at Chibok could accuse the nine parents of playing game with the whole issue especially as they were merely chosen to see Malala on behalf of the other parents, not to see Mr President. They were said to have pleaded with Malala to persuade the President to call for his own meeting at a latter date which will have a better representation.

The shunning of the meeting with the President coincided with the extradition Aminu Ogwuche, the suspected master-mind of the April 14 Nyanya bomb blast which killed over 75 persons with many injured.

The extradition of Ogwuche from Republic of Sudan followed the conclusion of tortuous legal and diplomatic processes between Nigeria and the Republic of Sudan where he had fled after the bomb blast. He was arrested there by the Interpol.

Ogwuche, who was handed over to the Interpol Unit of the Nigeria Police Force by the Sudanese Authorities, was flown into the country in a special flight from Khartoum, which touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at 3.00pm yesterday. This was disclosed yesterday by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) on its twitter handle @DefenceInfoNG and official website, www.defenceinfo.mil.ng.

According to the information, which was also confirmed by the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade; "Ogwuche, the Nyanya Bombing Mastermind was received at the Abuja Airport 3:150PM (yesterday) and now in Nigerian Security Custody Olukolade said that the suspect had been handed over to the Police who will in turn conduct the necessary investigation for further action.

It would be recalled that the terror fugitive who had long since been arrested in Sudan following an international red notice issued for his arrest by the Nigeria National Bureau of Interpol had not been repatriated to the country before now due to some necessary processes involved in transferring suspects from one country to another.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, while commending the personnel of the Nigeria Police Interpol Unit for a job well done, noted that the successful repatriation of the terror fugitive to Nigeria showed that the global coalition against terrorism championed by Nigeria is beginning to yield the desired result.

The terrorist was declared wanted by the Federal Government for his involvement in the deadly bombings; and with the collaborative efforts of Government of Sudan, Interpol, military, police and the Department of State Services (DSS) have led to his arrest.

Also in a separate operation at the Balmo Forest Bauchi State, Police detectives attached to the State Command on Saturday, arrested one of the top rank members of the sect, Mohammed Zakari. Zakari, while fleeing from the intensive counter insurgency operations going on around the Balmo Forest in the state. Zakari was arrested on Saturday.

ln a release by the Force Spokesperson, Frank Mba, Assistant Commissioner of Police, the suspect, who hails from Kaigamari Village, Daptchari in Darazo Local Government Area, Bauchi State is said to be the self-styled "chief butcher" of the insurgent group at the Balmo Forest Camp and is linked with the recent slaughter of seven (7) people, including women and children.

The Police said findings as well as disclosures from the suspect will assist the Law enforcement agencies in tracking down some other members of the terror cell.

In a related development, security operatives have arrested a man, Mr. Emmanuel Ugwu who specialises in creating panic by sending text messages threatening attack by Boko Haram terrorists.

According to the release at the DHQ website, Ugwu who was tracked by security operatives after dispatching text messages of impending Boko Haram attack in some hotels in Abuja confessed that he employed the gimmick because the management of one of the organisations refused to offer him employment.

Meanwhile the Human Right Watch revealed yesterday that Boko Haram has killed at least 2,053 civilians in an estimated 95 attacks during the first half of 2014. According to the group, the figures are based on detailed analyses of media reports as well as field investigations. While describing the killings as crimes against humanity, it noted that the killings and other abuses were part of widespread attacks on civilians in over 70 towns and villages in the Northeast, Abuja and other places.

'There has been a dramatic increase during 2014 in the numbers of casualties from bomb blasts, including several apparent suicide bombings. Since January, at least 432 people have been reported killed in 14 blasts in crowded marketplaces, a brothel, a technical college, and, on two occasions, places where people were watching soccer matches. Three of these attacks were in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital; two in Kano; two in Jos, the Plateau State capital; and three in Abuja, the federal capital. The Abuja attacks may demonstrate a southward trend of Boko Haram operations, Human Rights Watch said.

"Boko Haram is effectively waging war on the people of northeastern Nigeria at a staggering human cost," said Corinne Dufka, West Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. "Atrocities committed as part of a widespread attack on civilians are crimes against humanity, for which those responsible need to be held to account," he added.

It added that the bulk of the attacks and casualties credibly reported and investigated by the organization took place in Borno State - where 1,446 people died; with attacks killing 151 in Adamawa State and 143 civilians in Yobe State.

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