- Security operatives bar group from Aso Rock, Chibok community expresses regret for voting for president
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to hasten the trial of those indicted by the arms procurement probe panel, even as it urged him to negotiate with Boko Haram terrorists for the release of the kidnapped Chibok secondary schoolgirls.
The group, which spoke in Abuja monday while embarking on a protest to press the president to double his efforts in rescuing the girls, also asked the president to set up a “special desk” to fast track the trial of the suspects in the diversion of arms procurement funds.
BBOG spokesperson, Aisha Yesufu, while addressing protesters at the main access road to the Three Arms Zone in Abuja called on the president to direct the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and anti-graft agencies to set up the desk.
She said the desk would among other things provide regular updates on the trials of those indicted in the arms probe so that Nigerians would understand the progress made so far.
She said: “There are two other issues of deep concern to our movement. First, what we consider a slow, ineffectual response to the tragedy in the internally displaced persons’ camps in the North-east and the prosecution of corrupt cases associated with the counter-insurgency war of government. “In the light of the revelation of diversion of funds, which should have early in the crises helped to avert this disaster, we call for a deliberate hastening of the trials and conviction of guilty persons within the legal provisions. This is the only way we can bring justice to our fellow citizens whose human and materials loses cannot even begin to be estimated. “We reject any suspension of the trials without reaching a logical conclusion.” The group also called on the president, to as a matter of urgency, take decisions for the immediate rescue of the remaining 218 girls, using the following options: military operations, negotiations with the terrorists, and a combination of both.
“With all the information available, the president must pursue the lowest risk option of the three,” the group said.
It called for an address by the president on the rescue plan for the Chibok girls, not later than today.
The BBOG also demanded that government sets up a Chibok rescue operation monitoring team made up of representatives of the federal government, parents of the Chibok girls, KADA community where Chibok village is located and#BringBackOurGirls group.
It said it was necessary for the government to immediately preside over a national emergency on the North-east conference to articulate a cohesive response plan to the humanitarian crisis and designate a special envoy responsible for the inter-agency collaborative work required.
The group also called on government to mobilise the private and public sectors, as well as the international community towards addressing the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram menace in the North-east.
“It is unacceptable that continuous calls for the humanitarian community and relief organisations for a deliberate and urgent response to the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the North-east have so far met utter silence. “Mr. President, no leader in the 21st century should be silent in the face of imminent death for what has been estimated at about 500,000 of our citizens, especially with the images and abundance of evidence of this possibility,” the group said.
Esther Yakubu, the mother of Maida Yakubu, the young lady who was recently seen speaking in the proof-of-life video released by Boko Haram, said the family of the abducted girls were tired of seeing videos of their daughters in the hands of terrorists.
She called for an end to what she described as the denial of their fundamental rights by government and the media.
However, security operatives drawn from the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) barred the group from gaining access to the Three Arms Zone where the Presidential Villa is located.
As part of the group’s 14-day campaign to pressurise the government to intensify efforts to rescue the girls taken away from their school on April 14, 2014, the group had planned a protest to the Presidential Villa.
However, a massive blockade of the road to the Three Arms zone ensured that the protesters could not get to the villa.
The protest was jointly led by Oby Ezekwesili and Yesufu while the police detachment was led by a chief superintendent of police (CPS), Mr. Chuks Obasi.
Ezekwesili and Obasi got involved in a shouting match when the police officer insisted that the protesters would not be allowed to cross the human barricade created by the security operatives.
In the course of the confrontation, Ezekwesili told the security operatives that the group was on a peaceful protest.
She said: “For many years, we have been advocating, we have never engaged in anarchy.”
She also warned the leader of the police team to stop pointing his fingers at her while addressing her.
Replying, Obasi said: “Well, I have my mandate and my mandate is to ensure that the protest match does not assume a violent dimension.”
Some members of the group who spoke expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Buhari-led administration was handling the kidnapped Chibok girls’ case.
A member of the group who is also from Chibok community, Hoses Tsambido, said the BBOG group had voted for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, as against its previous votes for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011.
He said: “We were promised that the president would visit Sambisa after becoming president. We were also told that within two weeks our girls would be rescued.
“But over one year now, there is no tangible statement about our girls. The presidency has stated, instead, that it is confused.
“They told us that our girls seen in the latest video was merely an arrangement. No one has spoken to the family of any of the Chibok girls since the last video was released by the terrorists. We regret our votes. We regret it.”
The BBOG group said the Buhari administration no longer had any valid excuse for not rescuing the girls.
“No more excuses,” they shouted.