Voice of America (Washington, DC)

17 July 2014

Nigeria: President to Meet Parents of Chibok Girls Next Week

Photo: Vanguard
Some parents whose daughters were abducted…still waiting.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan plans to meet parents of the abducted Chibok girls as well as elders of the Chibok community in Abuja.

That’s according to Doyin Okupe, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, who said the meetings will take place next week after the leader sent them an official invitation.

Jonathan pledged to meet the parents of the abducted school girls following a recent meeting with Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, but a proposed meeting didn’t happen.

Okupe blamed leaders of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign for the failure of that meeting to take place.

“The president has now formally invited them to meet with him on Tuesday and we are expecting that meeting to hold,” said Okupe. “The indication from the parents and their leaders in Abuja was that… they have received the letter and they will honor the invitation.”

There were local media reports suggesting that the parents were concerned that a television broadcast of a meeting with the president could make them vulnerable to attacks by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.

Okupe dismissed those reports. He said leaders of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign are sabotaging government’s efforts in an attempt to create political discomfort for President Jonathan ahead of next year’s presidential vote.

“From time immemorial we have always known that they had major political reasons and they were heavily sponsored and had very serious partnership with APC [opposition All Progressives Congress]. And that everything they are doing is to embarrass the government and is pointedly aimed at 2015,” said Okupe. “They were the people who insisted even despite Malala’s efforts these people refused and did not allow the meeting to take place.”

Opponents of the president have often criticized the administration of being too slow to react following the abduction of the girls by Boko Haram militants.

They also point out that the president has yet to visit the Chibok area or meet the parents and elders of the community since the girls were abducted over 85 days ago.

Okupe said the criticisms are politically motivated, insisting that Boko Haram militants are engaged in terrorism and cross border crimes that requires international cooperation to defeat the phenomenon.

“[Jonathan] is the president of Nigeria, he will visit Chibok, he will visit anywhere else,” said Okupe. “Since [the] Chibok event over 2,000 people have also been killed by Boko Haram and Abuja was recently bombed. The president has to have all that in view. So it’s not only Chibok …and we still have the problem of Boko Haram to contend with. It’s a very deep and multifaceted problem.”

Okupe says President Jonathan has been busy with heads of various security agencies and international security experts formulating strategies to address the security challenges the country faces.

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