President Goodluck Jonathan has re-assured the parents of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls of the federal government's determination and his own personal resolve to ensure that the girls that are still in captivity are brought out alive. He also vowed to do everything possible to rout the Boko Haram terrorist group.
The President, who made the promise yesterday while meeting, for the first time since the girls were abducted 100 days ago, with over 200 parents of the abducted girls, as well as those who escaped from Boko Haram captivity, equally assured the schoolgirls that their education will not be truncated, noting also that his government was making efforts to place the schoolgirls in other schools, stressing that the resolve to see the girls go through school unhindered has remained the major objective of the government.
The president who left his seat to personally meet and interacted with each of the escapee girls, listened to their various stories, experiences and their pleas while assuring them that he was committed to ensuring that their eduaction continued unhindered.
The meeting coincided with the death of another four parents of the abducted girls, bringing the total number of the dead parents (since the abduction) to eleven.
Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Jonathan's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the president also used the opportunity to empathise with the parents and the girls and to reassure them that everything would be done to make things easier for them, especially those who had escaped and the ones that would also be rescued.
"Mr president further assured that after the battle has been won and the girls are brought back home, he, together with the parents and the state government will focus on development, on building Chibok, on building all that the terrorists had destroyed and on ensuring that every child, either in Chibok or in any other part of the country, has his or her dream realised."
Abati said the parents present at the meeting, were those of girls that escaped and those of the girls still in captivity, as well as girls who managed to escape.
The president's spokesman said even though the president had in the past met with different Chibok stakeholders, yesterday's meeting afforded the president the opportunity to meet directly with the girls.
"Statements were made by all the representatives of the people. They spoke their minds and conveyed their feelings to the president. The girls spoke in great details about their experiences and their observations. It was an open and frank session in which everybody expressed his or her mind," Abati said.
According to him, the girls who escaped gave accounts of what they went through, while the parents made it clear that they were representatives of other parents. "At the end of the meeting, the parents were happy. Everybody is in high spirit," Abati concluded.
A statement later issued by Abati quoted President Jonathan as saying that: "Anyone who gives you the impression that we are aloof and that we are not doing what we are supposed to do to get the girls out is not being truthful.
"Our commitment is not just to get the girls out; it is also to rout Boko Haram completely from Nigeria. But we are very, very mindful of the safety of the girls. We want to return them all alive to their parents. If they are killed in any rescue effort, then we have achieved nothing."
The meeting was also attended by community leaders, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State and Senate President David Mark.
The president said though he was yet to visit Chibok in the aftermath of the abductions, his heart was constantly with its traumatised parents and people, and his desire was to visit them when their daughters have been freed and they can receive him with smiling faces of joy, rather than with tears of anguish.
"Our duty now is to take all relevant steps to recover our girls alive and our primary interest is getting them out as safely as possible. I will not want to say much, but we are doing everything humanly possible to get the girls out.
"This is not the time for talking much. This is the time for action. We will get to the time that we will tell stories. We will get to the time that we will celebrate and I assure you that, by God's grace, that time will come soon," Jonathan told them.
Responding to appeals from the community leaders for more help in overcoming some of the challenges imposed on Chibok and neighbouring communities by the Boko Haram insurgency, the president said the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Federal Medical Agencies would intensify their efforts to provide them with additional relief, aid and assistance.
He also assured them that Chibok and other communities in the three North-eastern states most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency would be the first beneficiaries of the Victims' Support Fund, the presidential initiative for the North-east, the Safe Schools Initiative and other developmental programmes, which the federal government is evolving to address the damage, losses, setbacks, economic and social dislocations occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency.
"We solicit your maximum cooperation. Let us work together. Evil can never overcome good. We will surely overcome Boko Haram," the president said. In his remarks at the meeting according to the statement, Governor Shettima called for more sobriety, reflection and unity of purpose in the fight against terrorism in the country.
He pledged that his state would give Jonathan the fullest possible support for his efforts to address the problems caused by terrorism and the Boko Haram insurgency. Dr. Pogu Bitrus presented the Chibok community's address to the president.
Other speakers at the meeting included a district head, Mr. Zannamadu Usman; a member of the Borno State House of Assembly, Hon. Aminu Foni Chibok; parents of the abducted girls; and three of the girls who escaped from their captors, Godia Simon, Dorcas Musa and Joy Bishara. National security chiefs, ministers and other senior government officials were also present at the meeting.
Women Undertake 100 Days Post-abduction Prayers
In a bid to reinforce the said efforts by government aimed at rescuing the abducted girls, Nigerian women from different walks of life have gathered in their hundreds at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja to pray for the release of the over 200 school girls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents 100 days ago.
The women, who cut across religious faiths and ethnic groups, cried unto God to melt the hardened hearts of the Boko Haram leaders and sponsors to release the girls who have been in captivity for 100 days. The girls were seized from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014. The prayers were said in accordance with Islamic and Christian faiths.
The women, who had laid siege to the place since Monday night, also prayed for God's guidance and protection of the federal government under President Goodluck Jonathan as it takes measures towards securing the release of the girls and stamping out terrorism from Nigeria.
Among those who spoke at the event yesterday were the National President of Kasuwa da Kasuwa, Hajiya Halimatu B. Jumare; Mrs. Tonia Abara of National Council of Women Societies; the President of Gender Support for Women Emancipation Development, Chief (Mrs.) Ann Frances Nosike; and the founder, Lady Chy New World Order Foundation, Archbishop Chy Oriaka.
The women were also addressed by some Chibok indigenes from Borno State. The women, mostly mothers who felt outraged at the non-release of the girls after 100 days, prayed that "the Goliath of abduction and terrorism must fall", while denouncing the terrorists and their sponsors as enemies of the Nigerian nation.