By Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The BringBackOurGirls group said yesterday that it rejected any message from the federal government and the Nigerian military that seem to suggest that the kidnapped Chibok girls were no longer alive without providing any proof of evidence.
The group in a press statement jointly signed by Mrs. Aisha Yesufu and Mrs. Oby Esekwesili, both coordinators of the group, was reacting to a recent report credited to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, at the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL).
According to the group, ‘’Our attention has been drawn to statements credited to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai at the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2016. While responding to questions at a press briefing, the Army Chief was reported to have inferred doubts – if they are alive – on whether our Chibok girls are still alive.
“We read the news report with utter shock and disappointment, especially considering that only last month when one of our #ChibokGirls – Amina Ali Nkeki was rescued, the COAS enthusiastically reassured the nation that the military will rescue the rest of her classmates.
“We therefore fail to understand what has changed since May 2016 and what the COAS’ rather speculative statement suggesting that our Chibok girls may not be alive is expected to achieve’’, they said.
The advocacy group expressed surprise that General Buratai’s inference — without any accompanying counterfactual evidence came amidst the successes of the nation’s brave soldiers, the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), and the Civilian-Joint Task Force (C-JTF) in recent weeks and months.
The group added it was shocking that 809 days after the abduction of such a large number of children, the federal government had not offered the public any credible information on their whereabouts, saying it is embarrassing and absolutely unacceptable.
“We have been extremely delighted at the return of large numbers of our fellow citizens, including the military’s report of the rescue of over 5,000 from behind enemy lines within the last few days.
“Furthermore, this unfortunate speculation is inconsistent with every single report of encounters with our ChibokGirls reported by various other liberated abductees of the terrorists or the proof of life video that is now publicly available’’, the group added.
The advocacy group further stated that the ChibokGirl, Amina Nkeki Ali’s return on May 17, strengthened the hope and belief of the families of our 219 girls and concerned citizens in Nigeria and across the world that they would be located and rescued.
It added: “We, like our President, President Muhammadu Buhari, during his reception for Ms. Nkeki Ali, believed that the military and intelligence authorities would debrief her effectively and thus generate the missing pieces of actionable intelligence for the rescue of the rest of her classmates.
Is the COAS by his recent doubts conveying a different message to us?
“We emphatically reject this unfortunate development and hereby advise our Army Chief to urgently re-strategise, strengthen and channel the resources of the military into everything possible to locate and rescue our ChibokGirls and other citizens of Nigeria who are still in the terrorist’s den”, they fumed.
The group also advised the federal government on the urgent need to improve the process of identifying citizens who are rescued from terrorists, saying it believes that a more structured and systematic collaboration among relevant agencies would improve the identification, verification and registration of rescued citizens.
“We believe this system will provide necessary timelines of abductions, including periods of stay beyond enemy lines and a possible mapping of the enemy’s routes. Armed with these and proper debriefing, the programs of reintegration, rehabilitation and resettlement would be more effective and dignifying for our rescued citizens’’, it added.
The BringBackOurGirls group said its members’ hope had endured for 809 days so far and shall not waver until the President, the federal government and the military give the 218 girls the justice of rescue that is owed them as citizens of Nigeria.
“We hold strong to our vow made to the heartbroken parents of our Chibok girls that until, and unless, we reach such a time as factual evidence is provided to the contrary that our girls are alive, our demand remains.’’