Schoolgirls’ abduction: My response better than Jonathan’s, says Buhari

Olusola Fabiyi, Olalekan Adetayo, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Akinkuotu, Oleleye Aluko and Justin Tyopuusu

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said his administration’s response to the February 19 abduction of 110 pupils of Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, was better than the response of the last administration to a similar abduction in Chibok, Borno State.

He said while the Federal Government under his watch swung into action immediately after the abduction, the last administration looked the other way when schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok in 2014.

Buhari spoke at a town hall meeting with traditional and community leaders, as well as other stakeholders in Damaturu, as part of activities lined up for his official visit to Yobe State.

Buhari, who arrived the state in a Nigerian  Air Force helicopter via Maiduguri, touched down at the August 27th Stadium in Damaturu and was received by the state Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, among other top government functionaries.

The President, during the stakeholders’ meeting, said the commitment displayed by his administration had led to the rescue of more than 100 Chibok girls taken into captivity before he assumed office.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan was in the saddle when the Chibok girls were abducted by Boko Haram in 2014.

Buhari said, “The Federal Government’s response to the unfortunate abduction of the schoolgirls is a clear departure from the insensitivity of the past administration which looked the other way while the Chibok girls were taken away in 2014 and held in captivity for over three years.

“Due to our commitment, over 100 Chibok girls have been rescued and reunited with their families, sent back to school and empowered with requisite skills.

“You may recall that recently, our negotiation efforts led to the release of abducted University of Maiduguri lecturers, some women police personnel, students and even an NYSC member.

“We, therefore, have no doubt that the Dapchi girls will be rescued or released. I can assure parents, Nigerians and the international community that we will do all that is within our power to make sure that the girls are brought back safely to their families.”

Buhari promised that any agency, person or group found culpable in the abduction of the girls by the committee set up to investigate the matter would be punished.

“The Federal Government has set up a 12-member committee to unravel the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the students.

“The membership of the committee was drawn from among security agencies and local residents.

“It is my hope that any agency, person or group found to have been negligent or culpable in the abduction of the girls will be punished in accordance with the law,” he said.

The President further stated that he had ordered a 24-hour briefing to him by security agencies on their successes or challenges as regards the rescue mission.

While expecting the report of the committee set up to investigate the abduction, he added that he had asked that appropriate Federal Government authorities to be in constant touch with the Yobe State Government and other neighbouring states to ensure a common strategy and line of action.

He promised that there would be no rest until the last girl from Chibok and Dapchi was released.

The President said the girls, like all other citizens, must enjoy unhindered freedom and pursue their legitimate aspirations.

“The Dapchi and Chibok pupils are our girls and must enjoy our protection. They must live to achieve their individual ambitions; to be great women of tomorrow. It is our duty to protect them.

“We are determined to restore peace to all parts of the country – from the West to the East; North to the South.

“While calling for calm, I implore affected parents and families to restrain from making statements that may jeopardise the success of the rescue mission,” he added.

Buhari, who said he had not left any stone unturned in making sure that the Dapchi girls were rescued, took time to highlight some of the efforts so far made.

He said he had ordered the Service Chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police to take direct charge and brief him daily on the efforts to bring back the girls.

He said the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had visited Dapchi, adding that the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, who was also accompanied by Mohammed, also visited the school for on-the-spot assessment.

The President said he had ordered the re-strengthening of a Joint Operational Base involving relevant agencies and services to coordinate the rescue mission.

Consequently, he disclosed that the Service Commanders had not only established a unified Command Centre in Maiduguri, it also raised several rescue teams to comb the forests in the “North-East Theatre of Operation.”

Buhari said the Nigerian Airforce had maintained aerial surveillance of the area while the Federal Government had sent a delegation of senior officials to visit the state governor and the parents of the girls to re-assure them of the measures the government was taking.

He stated that his government was partnering the international community and organisations to ensure that the girls were safely returned.

The President said his resolve to negotiate with the terrorists for unconditional release of the girls was borne out of his administration’s conviction that doing so was devoid of risk and would not endanger the lives of the girls.

Buhari added, “We have remained resolute in our fight against terrorism and Boko Haram insurgents. Nigerians will readily recall that prior to our coming in 2015, the situation was chaotic with violent terrorist attacks being the order of the day.

“Terrorists had made life very unbearable for the people in Yobe, Kano, Kaduna, Borno, Niger, and even the FCT, Abuja. Our mosques and churches witnessed daily suicide bomb attacks. Parts of Adamawa and Borno states were helplessly ceded to the terrorists.

“But today, we have shown a clear determination in tackling terrorism which is a worldwide phenomenon. We have not only degraded the power and dominance of the criminal elements, our security forces have patriotically exhibited an uncommon zeal in executing their assignment.

“Our achievement in maintaining security is such that the international community and even our critics commend our modest efforts.”

Gaidam, in his remarks, assured the President that Yobe people would continue to accord security agents the necessary support towards enhancing peace in the state.

The governor said security agencies had deployed their personnel in Dapchi and major towns and schools across the state.

He urged the President and the international community to work hard towards the timely rescue of the Dapchi girls.

Our correspondents report that the President was accorded a rousing welcome as pupils and other Damaturu residents queued along major roads in the state capital to catch a glimpse of Buhari.

The visit will be the first for Buhari since his campaign in Yobe State during the 2015 elections.

Buhari visits GGSTC

Buhari, during the Yobe visit, went to the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, where the 110 girls were abducted.

According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President visited the school after a meeting with stakeholders in Damaturu.

In Dapchi, Buhari was said to have reassured parents of the abducted schoolgirls that the Federal Government would not rest until their children were safely brought back home.

The President, who was accompanied by Governor Gaidam, said, “I have read the full report of what happened in Dapchi. I am praying that God will continue to console you,” he said.

Buhari also said government would ensure that the Boko Haram menace was totally brought to an end.

The Principal of the school, Mrs. Adama Abdulkarim, said some gunmen stormed the school premises and started shooting at about 7pm on February 20, 2018.

“We had a roll call and realised 110 girls were missing; out of 906 girls, we had 796,” she said.

A representative of the parents, Alhaji Bashir Manzo, appealed to the Federal Government to rescue the girls.

Stop stories, give us our girls, PDP tells Buhari

However, the Peoples Democratic Party advised Buhari to stop telling Nigerians stories, but deliver the girls to their parents.

The National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said it was a pity that Buhari was still talking about reactions when Nigerians and the parents of the abducted girls had been weeping.

He said, “The President is still talking about his reaction when Nigerians are weeping daily for the abducted girls to return. Is that an issue?  He should stop telling stories, but give us our daughters.

“Did he also tell Nigerians why his commanders withdrew soldiers shortly before the abduction took place?

“He merely changed his mind because he was told that he would be seen as being inhuman when he now visits them during the 2019 electioneering. Was he told that the national leadership of our party had visited?”

Asked whether he was surprised that Buhari visited the school, he said no, but wondered why the President refused to visit places of killings in both Benue and Plateau states.

He said, “If he could do that in Yobe State, what stopped him from commiserating with the families of those killed in Benue and Plateau states? Why didn’t he visit the graves of those murdered in Benue who were given mass burial.”

No comparison until Dapchi girls are rescued – CSOs

Also, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and Campaign for Democracy said the Federal Government must rescue the Dapchi schoolgirls before making any comparison.

The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “Putting it very bluntly, until the Dapchi schoolgirls are back (all of them), in the same conditions they were before abduction, we cannot talk about any comparison. The statement reveals serious political indiscretion.”

Also the CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “We recall that the wife of the previous President met with the principal and some of the Chibok pupils.  That is also some sense of response. But a part of the campaign promises of President Buhari is to tackle the Boko Haram menace and then, Dapchi abduction happened.

“I think this is not about whose administration is better, but about the rescue of the Dapchi schoolgirls.”

Buhari handled abduction poorly –BBOG

The spokesman for the Bring Back Our Girls Group, Sesugh Akume, said the President was complacent.

Akume said Buhari was less competent than Jonathan because he allowed the girls to be abducted despite having the benefit of hindsight.

“We think President Buhari has handled the matter very poorly. We are not happy that four years after the Chibok abduction happened, the Dapchi abduction happened again. All the mistakes that were made by Jonathan were repeated, which means the Buhari government did not learn anything.

“The Dapchi abduction happened nearly a month ago and the President is just visiting. Also, the government lied that the girls were rescued. Soldiers were withdrawn from Dapchi a few days before the abduction.

“The fact that the Dapchi abduction happened alone is enough to call for his resignation because Chibok abduction was a first time incident; but now it has repeated itself, it is even worse.”

‘I can help FG to tackle education, herdsmen crises’

The Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, has urged the Federal Government to seek his help on how to tackle the rot in the educational sector.

He also said he was willing to assist in resolving the farmers-herdsmen clashes in the country using his experience in Ekiti State.

Fayose spoke on Wednesday in Ado Ekiti during his investiture as the ‘Grand Patron’ by the National Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria.

The governor, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, said the All Progressives Congress-led government at the centre should not be ashamed to consult him despite the political difference.

Fayose said he had succeeded in restoring the state’s glory in education by bringing it back to the first position from 35th in the National Examination Council Senior Secondary Certificate Examination for two consecutive years.

He said, “The Federal Government should ask us how we conquered decay in the education sector. They should ask us how we overcame herdsmen crisis. They should ask us; they should not think about party differences.

“You can build all bridges of the world; without education, it is a waste of time. If you give education to people, you have given all that matters in the world. I thank God for making what seemed impossible happen. I did it in my first term and I have also done it in my second term.”

Fayose urged the parents and teachers to support his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, to become the governor so as to sustain the legacy.

Boasting that his party would win in 165 of the 177 wards in Ekiti, Fayose added, “The election is in the hands of the people not in the hands of politicians.”

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