President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday met with about 51 escaped abducted secondary school girls, their parents, some parents of girls still in captivity and community and opinion leaders from Chibok, Borno State with a promise to ensure the girls’ education do not suffer.
Over 200 girls were abducted from the Governmnent Girls Secondary School, Chibok on the 14th of April, 2014.
Jonathan, who met with those who escaped, the parents and Chibok leaders behind closed doors at the Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja, also promised to rescue the abducted girls still in captivity alive.
Besides government officials barring journalists from covering the over two hours-thirty minutes meeting, the Chibok girls, parents, community and opinion leaders were shielded from journalists throughout their stay at the Aso Rock.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati said: “Mr president met with the parents of the abducted girls, community and opinion leaders of Chibok. The parents include those of girls that escaped and those of the girls who are still in captivity, the girls who managed to escape were also here.”
“It was an interactive session during which the president had the opportunity to listen first hand to the various categories of persons. It was a very successful event and a good development because Mr president had always been looking forward to this opportunity. Before now he had met with various stakeholders on the matter but today he heard directly from the persons involved.”
“Statements were made by all the representatives of people. They spoke their minds and conveyed their feelings to the president. The girls who escaped also gave an account of what they went through. Mr president reassured them of the federal government’s determination and his own personal determination to ensure that the girls that are still in captivity are brought out alive.”
“That is the main objective of the government. Mr president also used the opportunity to empathise with the parents and the girls and to reassure them that everything will be done to make things easier for them, especially those who have escaped and the ones that will also be rescued, that their education will not in anyway suffer and he is convinced that evil will never prevail over good.”
He went on: “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/her dream realised.”
“At the end of the meeting, the parents are happy. Everybody is in high spirit. Mr president made it clear that their education won’t be truncated. The government is making efforts to place these young girls in other schools and that they should not be afraid about their future because everything will be done to protect their right to education.”
“The parents made it clear that they are representatives of other parents. And you can see that we have over 200 people coming from Chibok. The girls spoke in great details about their experiences and their observations. It was an open and frank session in which everybody expressed their minds.”
The Bauchi State governor, Isa yuguda disclosed that over two million refugees from the three most affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are presently living in Bauchi State as a result of the insurgency.
He said: “It’s been a major challenge, you know Bauchi is surrounded by all the states having security challenges and many refugees have been pouring into it. Presently we have over two million refugees in Bauchi but the good news is that we have been able to settle them down. No refugee is in any camp, we have given them land to settle, some shelter for them. We have tried our best to provide water and some basic facilities so that they can start life over again.”
“It’s not been easy, our resources are over stretched, the little we have has to be shared with the refugees.” He added
On whether the state is getting any assistance from any quarters, he said: “We are looking forward to some support. Only recently we received some items – food, blankets from NEMA but we need a lot more. I’m sure these guys are not going back to where they came from, they have settled and settled permanently and I think the federal government should take on that and see how they can be properly resettled.”
On his part, the Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shakarau, said the time the President is meeting the girls and parents, which is 99 days after the abduction, does not really matter, but what is being done over the issue.
He said: “It is not a question of how many days, not a question of how long, it is a question of what is being done. And as various government spokesmen have been saying, this is a very serious matter of security. Some people call it a war and when you are talking of war, strategies to win the war, is not all of those strategies that would be on the streets.”
“I think we should appreciate this and rather than counting the days and how long, I think we should be concern with how much effort is being made and we should jointly pray for this struggle.”
“Another important aspect is for us to emphasis the de-politization of the issue, it is a matter of concern for all. I’m particularly more concern that we are talking about girls and this is my area of concern. It happened in school, it happened to students so it is our concern that everything should be done for those now home to continue their education.”
“The meeting was intended to be an interactive session for Mr. President to listen to the parents, community leaders and most importantly to some of the girls that escaped from Sambisa forest. The parents were happy to listen to the President assuring them of the commitment, of the determination of government to rescue the abducted girls and in particular assuring those of them that are now back with their parents of the continuation of their education and protection of lives and properties.” He said
Among those at the meeting yesterday are the Senate President, Senator David Mark; Borno and Bauchi state governors, Ibrahim Shettima and Isah Yuguda, respectively and the Principal of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Asabe Kwambura.
Others include the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala; Minister of Information, Mr. Labran Maku; Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe; the Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values, Mrs. Sarah Jibril.