Voice of America (Washington, DC)

21 July 2014

Nigeria: President Jonathan to Assure Chibok Parents, Says Aide

Photo: Screenshot/Premium Times
Missing Nigerian Girls

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan will reassure parents and community leaders from Chibok that his administration is committed to rescuing the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, a presidential spokesman said Monday.

The president is scheduled to meet with the parents Tuesday at the presidential villa in Abuja, according to officials of the administration.

Spokesman Ruben Abati said Tuesday's meeting forms part of the president's effort to address the challenges of terrorism and acts of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram militants in parts of the country.

"This is something that the president has always wanted," Abati said. "The president had made efforts initially to meet with various stakeholders from Chibok and from the north eastern part of the country. The president will... reassure them of the government's commitment to empathize with them, to bring them up to date about the efforts being made by the administration to ensure that the girls are brought back home safely."

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.

Abati says security agencies have credible intelligence about where the militants are keeping the girls, but declined to disclose it due to security concerns.

Critics say the president has yet to visit the Chibok area or meet the parents and elders of the community since the girls were abducted over 90 days ago.

But Abati disagreed, saying parents and community leaders in Chibok refused a presidential fact finding mission established to investigate the abduction of the school girls.

"The process of rescuing the girls may look like is taking sometime, but government remains committed, and government is optimistic that at the end of the day, it will succeed in bringing the girls back home safely," said Abati.

Some parents of the abducted girls, as well as leaders of the "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign, have expressed frustration over the lack of information about efforts to rescue the abducted school girls.

But Abati says the government has been forthright with information about efforts being made to find and rescue the girls. He says the administration sympathizes with the parents in spite of their criticisms.

"The government has set up a national information center, which provides information on a daily basis and you also have the directorate of defense information which keeps everybody up to date on a daily basis. So, I think the point about information, I think we have gone beyond that," said Abati.

"The expectation of course on the part of the parents will be that they want quick results. But, government continues to reassure the parents and other stakeholders that government is committed to one major objective, to ensure that the girls are brought back home safely and... that the terrorist does not prevail, " said Abati.

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