The Guardian (Lagos)

15 July 2014

Nigeria: Chibok Girls, Parents Shun Meeting With President Goodluck Jonathan

Photo: Vanguard
Malala and President Goodluck Jonathan.

AN attempt by President Goodluck Jonathan to meet with the parents and some escapee girls earlier abducted from Government Secondary School (GSS), Chibok, Borno State, Tuesday failed as they shunned the meeting slated for the State House.

The meeting would have been a follow-up to the commitment the President made on Monday to the Pakistani Girl-Child Education Campaigner, Malala Yousafzani, during an audience at the State House, Abuja.

Briefing State House correspondents, the Senior Special Assistant on Public Communication, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said the meeting was scheduled for 4p.m yesterday following Malala's request, which the President graciously agreed to.

"Unfortunately, the #BringBackOurGirls# leadership prevailed on the parents of the girls not to come. What happened was that they actually avoided the meeting with Mr. President, because the foreign media and everybody were waiting for this meeting. They made it expressly clear to us that they were no longer coming," Okupe said.

He confirmed that the President had authorized that an official letter be written to the parents formally inviting them to meet him, and it is going to be sometime next week. He said all the rigmarole about the Chibok girls was a prelude to the 2015 general elections, regretting that the plight of the schoolgirls had become a political chess game to the local chapter of the #BringBackOurGirls# campaigners.

And responding to accusations linking the party to the Islamist terrorist sect, Boko Haram, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said that mismanagement of national resources, massive corruption under the watch of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government and incompetent handling of the insurgency caused the festering violence in the country.

The allegation was contained in a statement in Lagos yesterday by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, following a recent allegation linking the party to the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, and asking the United Kingdom (UK) to probe the conspiracy over interest that bother on 2015 general election.

It will be recalled that intelligence believed to have been sourced from the ruling PDP has put even the UK Government under pressure to probe APC's alleged link to the sect.

It accused the PDP-led government of "aiding, abetting and benefitting" from the sect's insurgency, adding that the Federal Government was using the fight against insurgency as an excuse to punish and witch-hunt the opposition, trample on civil liberties and abuse national institutions on a scale yet unprecedented in the country's history.

In another development, the Imo State Police Command yesterday drove away scores of street hawkers/traders in Owerri, the Imo State capital, and adjourning areas to guard against possible bomb attack.

The areas affected are Douglas, Mbaise and Cathedral Roads and adjourning streets, where street traders had resisted pleas from Governor Rochas Okorocha and government agents to relocate from.

Led by the Commissioner, Mr. Abdulmajid Ali, the police dispersed the traders with tear-gas, regretting that despite several warnings to vacate the roads to ensure free flow of traffic, especially in the event of blast, the traders had remained adamant.

And as efforts continued to end the Book Haram insurgency, the Police at the weekend arrested the sect's self-styled "butcher". The 30-year old Mohammed Zakari, said to be a top member of the group, was arrested on Saturday in Bauchi along Darazo-Basrika Road while fleeing the ongoing counter-insurgency operations around the Balmo Forest.

According to a statement from the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, Zakari is "the self-styled 'chief butcher' of the insurgent group at the Balmo Forest Camp and is linked with the recent slaughter of seven people, including women and children."

Zakari, who hails from Kaigamari, Daptchari in Darazo local council of Bauchi State, was said to have been tutored in insurgency in Gombe Forest by a fleeing insurgent, one Abba Taura, and moved to Balmo Forest only three months ago.

He was reported to have actively participated in the April attack on Customs officers at Kari Town, along Maiduguri Road in Bauchi. Meanwhile, the Police Command has urged residents of the affected areas to be vigilant for any suspicious or strange character fleeing from the forest.

Meanwhile, Igbo Leaders of Thought, led by constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, yesterday reviewed the security situation in the South East and resolved that the continued reign of Hausa/Fulani Muslim Police Commissioners was no longer ideal in the region.

Calling on the Federal Government to immediately redeploy or juggle the commissioners in the zone with their indigenous counterparts from the South-East, the elders said the report that Boko Haram members have infiltrated the region and are being shielded was real.

In a statement by the Deputy Secretary, Elliot Uko, after their security meeting in Enugu yesterday, the leaders articulated a security awareness programme for the South-East Governors' Forum to work with to secure Igboland from Boko Haram insurgents.

According to the statement, "the Igbo Leaders of Thought wonders aloud why all the Police Commissioners posted to the South-East should be Fulani/Muslims. Are there no police commissioners from the middle belt, South-South or South-West that could be posted to the South-East?

"With the shielding of the six Boko Haram bombers arrested at the Owerri church by the Imo State Commissioner of Police, we hereby reject the continual occupation of the South-East by Hausa/Fulani Muslim Police Commissioners.

"We hereby demand that CPs Abubakar Adamu Mohamed of Enugu, Usman Gwari of Anambra, Maigari Dikko of Ebonyi, Abdulmajid Ali of Imo and Adamu Ibrahim of Abia be immediately juggled and redeployed as we feel uncomfortable with the officers in charge of the South-East, as Boko Haram boasts of plans to attack to south."

However, the non-governmental Citizens Cultural Renaissance Initiative has asked the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. William Hague, to help expedite action towards the investigation of any link between any Nigerian politician or political party with the terrorist Boko Haram as demanded by the House of Commons.

Reacting to last Sunday's report in The Guardian that the British Government was being pressured by its parliament to investigate alleged link between the terrorist group and some Nigerian politicians, the group said that for the war against the sect to be won, the international community must help Nigerians by bringing to book high profile people with links and sympathies to the group.

It regretted that Nigerian political elite rather engage in blame game and "sometimes quasi-celebratory mood whenever the terrorists strike." The letter addressed to Hague and released in Abuja partly read: "We and several discerning Nigerians have in the recent past expressed concern over what, at best, could amount to nothing more than half-hearted condemnation of the activities of the Boko Haram sect by certain sections of the Nigerian opposition political elite.

"We recall that a one-time former Nigerian minister, Fani Kayode, recently defected from one of the main opposing political parties citing as part of his reasons alleged sympathy by his erstwhile political party for Boko Haram.

"Just last week, the news broke that during military operations in one of Boko Haram strongholds in the Darazo Forest, Bauchi State, arms and ammunitions as well as political party membership cards were recovered. Though the Nigerian security agencies are said to be investigating these finds, we doubt if the Nigerian mundane considerations will allow anything meaningful to come out of it."

Nevertheless, the APC contended that if the PDP-led Federal Government had not misgoverned the country since 1999, the country could have been spared terrorism, epitomised more than anything else by the Boko Haram insurgency.

It accused the PDP of profiting from the insurgency it has always been dismissive of any genuine efforts to end the crisis. It alleged that the PDP was using the crisis to launder the image of the Jonathan Presidency by securing attendance and participation for President Jonathan at important international summits and meetings.

"Curiously, Boko Haram has become a way of getting the international community to talk and meet with President Jonathan and gain international media coverage.

"The PDP-led Federal Government is also using the crisis, especially the #BringBackOurGirls# campaign, to blackmail the main opposition party and the civil society, impose emergency rule in states and areas controlled by opposition parties, harass and restrict media freedom (through military clampdowns), and justify other illegal activities."

"It is also not a secret that billions of naira have been allocated to security in order to tackle the Boko Haram menace, yet our troops have not been adequately equipped to confront the insurgency. One wonders what happened to the huge funds allocated to the anti-terror fight.

"Against the backdrop of the huge war-chest the Jonathan administration has amassed ahead of the 2015 elections, one can easily understand how such funds have evaporated into thin air."

It claimed that the status quo favours the PDP and President Jonathan ahead 2015 because Boko Haram operates in the opposition strongholds, hence the declaration of emergency rule and general atmosphere of insecurity will lead to the cancellation of voting in some areas and limit voters' turnout in general to minimize PDP's electoral losses in the north and enhance its likelihood of victory.

The APC said the international community knew that government has been the biggest clog in efforts to tackle Boko Haram, apparently because the Jonathan-led administration has seen the insurgency as its surest ticket to re-election and international acceptance.

"It is time to tell Nigerians that the only reason the insurgency has continued unabated is because the PDP and the Jonathan administration are benefitting massively from it. That explains their quick dismissal of our call for an international inquiry to unravel the sponsors and modus operandi of the terror group, while latching on to what remains a mere conjecture on the probe of Boko Haram links by the British Parliament.

"If the PDP and its cohorts have nothing to hide, they would have embraced that call. We maintain that only an international inquiry can unravel those behind Boko Haram, and we thank Nigerians for their favourable response to our call."

The party drew attention to the testimony by a United States (U.S.) official at a House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Africa hearing in Washington last Thursday, "which identified human rights abuse and uncooperative attitude of the Nigerian Government and its military authorities" as hindering the U.S.' security assistance from tackling Boko Haram.

"The Congress also heard that the he Nigerian Government has appeared reticent in some cases to allow its security forces participate in U.S. training programmes," while "multiple systemic factors further constrained the effectiveness of the Nigerian security force's response to Boko Haram, notably security sector corruption and mismanagement."

According to the APC, it is indisputable that the sect emerged against the backdrop of intense poverty and political misrule by the PDP since 1999 because, "since the return to democratic rule in 1999, the PDP has ruled Nigeria till date, and has been responsible for mismanaging over 60 percent of national revenue.

"Still, very little has changed in terms of improvement in the socio-economic conditions of most Nigerians. It is hardly a coincidence that Boko Haram emerged in the North-East region given that it is the poorest region with higher than national average rates of poverty, illiteracy, mortality rate, youth unemployment and social immobility.

"Moreover, states in the North-East receive some of the least allocations from the national treasury individually and collectively. The region, reflecting broader national and even African patterns, is experiencing a 'youth bulge' that accentuates the socio-economic deprivations across the region."

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