Buhari Departs for London After Receiving Chibok Girls

 • President hosts Osinbajo, Saraki, Dogara ahead of trip   
• VP takes charge, no date given for Buhari’s return 
 • Departure raises uncertainty over SGF, NIA DG’s fate  
• Tinubu: Stop all speculations on president’s health

By Tobi Soniyi in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade, Damilola Oyedele and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja with agency reports

In keeping with his statement last March that he would have to return to the United Kingdom for a follow up on his medical treatment, President Muhammadu Buhari, after receiving the 82 Chibok girls who were released from captivity on Saturday, left last night for London, the British capital, for further consultations with his doctors.

With the president’s departure, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo will take charge of the country’s affairs from today as the acting president.

Before his departure, however, Buhari Twitted pictures of himself, Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and his Chief of State, Dr. Abba Kyari, who met with him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Though details of the meeting were not made public, the president said in the Twitter post: “This evening at home I received Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Speaker House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, ahead of my Trip to London tonight.”
A statement by the president’s media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the duration of the trip, which he described as a follow up medical consultation with his doctors, would be as determined by the doctors.

According to Adesina, the president had initially planned to embark on the trip Sunday afternoon but had to delay his flight as a result of the arrival of the 82 Chibok girls who were released from captivity Saturday night in Borno State and arrived Abuja yesterday.
The presidential spokesman who said the president had transmitted the letter of his departure to the National Assembly, in accordance with Section 145 of the Constitution, added that Buhari assured Nigerians that there was no cause for alarm and urged them to remember him in their prayers.
“The president wishes to assure all Nigerians that there is no cause for worry. He is very grateful for the prayers and good wishes of the people, and hopes they would continue to pray for the peace and unity of the nation.
“The length of the president’s stay in London will be determined by the doctors. Government will continue to function normally under the able leadership of the vice-president.
“President Buhari has transmitted letters about the trip to the Senate and the House of Representatives, in compliance with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution,” the statement added.
The president initially left the country on January 19, four days earlier than the scheduled commencement of a 10-day vacation, promising that he would return on February 6 to resume duty.

But on February 5, the presidency announced the extension of his vacation indefinitely, saying the president wanted to receive the results of the medical tests conducted on him and be certified okay by his doctors before returning Nigeria.
He did not return until March 10.
On his return, his official schedule was kept very light and he never attended any engagements outside the Villa.
Last month, he also missed three cabinet meetings which he was supposed to chair and was rarely seen by the public except at Friday Juma’at service in the Villa.
His absence from government functions and rare sightings fuelled speculations about his health and capacity to execute the demands of his office.
But the government maintained that he was taking things easy and resting on the advise of his doctors.

Buhari’s departure for London last night would leave a number of issues unresolved. Chief among them is the decision on the much awaited outcome of the suspension and probe of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and Director-General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ayo Oke.
Both men had respectively been investigated over allegations of financial impropriety in the management of the humanitarian crisis in the North-east, as well as the discovery of N13.3 billion in an Ikoyi apartment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The three-man team headed by Osinbajo was billed to submit its report to Buhari today, but his sudden departure on another medical trip may put the outcome of the investigation on hold and prolong the uncertainty over Lawal and Oke’s fate.

Tinubu: Stop All Speculations

Before he left for London last night, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bola Tinubu had called on Nigerians to stop all speculations on the president’s health.

Tinubu, in a statement he issued yesterday, also said Buhari should be allowed to do his “job as he deems fit”.
The former Lagos governor, who had been fingered by some northern groups as one of those who has worked behind the scenes to politicise Buhari’s absence from work due to ill-health, blamed unnamed persons, who he said were at work trying to take advantage of the president’s health.

He called on Nigerians to stand with and beside the president, adding that the unfounded speculations around the president’s health should stop.
He said: “We must not covet fear and rumor but should engage our creativity and enterprise to help the president accomplish his historic mission.
“Our greatest energies should be focused on righting this economy so that it provides a decent livelihood for all people. This critical path towards economic recovery must be followed for the sake of our children.”
He noted that many people have openly speculated about the president’s health.
According to him, some had done so for their own selfish reasons.
He said: “These people shall be found out in time. There are many who have done so out of sincere concern for the president.

“These people should not be condemned for their heartfelt concern. However, they should be advised not to allow fear to ambush their better judgment and their courage. They should not give themselves to idle speculation.”
He called on Nigerians not to buy into the myth of some cabal at work.
According to him, dwelling on empty speculations on the existence of some “mythic cabal” was not what the country needs at present.
“From what I can see, the president remains at the helm and his policies are being implemented,” he added.
Tinubu argued that the president had shown his belief in processes and partnership by assigning more responsibilities to his deputy Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, including presiding over meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
By delegating work to his deputy, Tinubu said Buhari had demonstrated his trust and implicit confidence in Osinbajo.
He said: “Unfounded speculation serves no purpose other than to encourage those who would rather derail the president’s progressive agenda and who would divisively pit one aspect of this nation against another.
“Such chatter may foment division where there was none and this might come to impair the management of the affairs of this country.
“By fomenting animosity among groups that have heretofore been allied, those who hold to the bankrupt politics of yesterday seek to thwart the president’s mission while claiming to support him.
“Those who truly care about the president and the important work he still must do should not allow themselves to become the unwitting tools of these regressive forces.”
The APC leader said Nigeria is a place of numerous challenges and the home of vast human potential.
In his view, “the country’s greatest challenge has always been how to best direct our vast potential so that we overcome the challenges that plague us”.
This cardinal challenge, he said, was why the APC was formed and why the party presented Buhari as its standard bearer.
“The people rightly chose him as their president, believing he was the best person to make Nigeria into a better nation.

“His electoral victory was historic. More importantly, like most Nigerians, I believed his presidency represented a historic mission to right many of our nation’s wrongs. I still believe so,” he added.
Tinubu said that the previous administration treated Boko Haram softly, appearing to view the terrorists as part of a political equation rather than a lethal threat to national security.
In contrast, he said, Buhari has gone after Boko Haram without condition and without fear.
“He has pushed them back, saving lives and giving northern Nigeria a chance to breathe again the air of peace and normalcy.”
Tinubu said his recent visit to Borno State to inaugurate projects opened his eyes to the progress Buhari has made in the anti-terror war.
He said the president created an enabling environment for Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, whom he said, has taken advantage of the peaceful space to initiate laudable projects such as the provision of housing for and rehabilitation of Boko Haram victims.
Tinubu also said that the previous administration treated corruption as its co-tenant in office while Buhari has fought it with tenacity, equal to that with which he confronted Boko Haram.

He, however, pointed out that the country faces stiff economic challenges, adding that this was neither Buhari’s doing nor his choosing.
“The steep decline in oil prices caused the downturn which exposed our nation’s long-time failure to plan ahead by diversifying our economic base.
“It has fallen on the Buhari government to fix the immediate problem while also diversifying our economy so that we will no longer be as vulnerable to the price of oil again,” he added.
According to him, Buhari’s policies have begun to bear fruit.
He said: “We are moving out of recession and towards the long-term reshaping of the national economy.
“Given the complex menu of problems he has faced, Buhari has done well in a tough situation.
“While I seek not to diminish the hardship still faced by many of our people, we also must be cognisant of the important progress made these past two years.
“Buhari has moved us from the path of failure to a path where we have a fighting chance to realise a better nation. Had we stuck to the ways of the former administration, our present situation would be worse than untenable,” he stated.
He asked all those who have publicly speculated about the president’s health to keep all of his achievements in mind, adding that too much was at stake.

“We owe a responsibility to be wise and circumspect in what is spoken into the public ear. We voted for Buhari because we trusted his ability to make decisions regarding complex issues of state.
“If we can trust him to handle difficult matters of governance, we can also trust him to make correct decisions regarding his personal health.
“The President Buhari I have come to know is an honest and responsible man and leader.
“When he returned to Nigeria on March 10, he disclosed to the nation that he had been sick to the extent that he received blood transfusion and would leave for further treatment at some future date.
“He said he would follow the counsel of his doctors and there is every reason to believe that he has been true to their counsel,” the former governor stated.

‘Second Year Anniversary Gift’

Meanwhile, before he left for London, the president yesterday received the 82 Chibok girls at the Presidential Villa, describing their release as a pleasant second year anniversary gift to the people of Nigeria.
He also pledged that the presidency would supervise the rehabilitation of the girls.
The girls were released to the federal government on Saturday night by Boko Haram insurgents after three years in captivity.
The girls, who were conveyed to the Villa in two white buses belonging to the Nigerian Army, were accompanied by the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Aisha Alhassan, and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris. They were joined by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
Before meeting with the president, the girls were flown to Abuja from Borno State in the early hours of yesterday and were received by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.

They were thereafter driven to medical facilities belonging to the Department of State Services (DSS) where they underwent medical examinations.
They had earlier been scheduled to arrive the Villa at 4 p.m. but were presumably delayed by the medical examinations that they underwent.
However, when they eventually arrived for the presidential reception, journalists were barred from witnessing their meeting with the president.
Only the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and the president’s personal photographer were allowed into the meeting.

Buhari’s media aide, Malam Garba Shehu, explained that barring journalists from live coverage of the event was not intentional, but was caused by the non-availability of space in the small room used for the reception.
The release of the girls on Saturday was the fallout of negotiations brokered between the federal government and Boko Haram leadership by government of Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and non-governmental organisations, in a follow up to the release of 21 of other Chibok girls last October.
The latest release brought the number of girls who have regained their freedom since their abduction three years ago to 162, while 114 other girls remain in Boko Haram captivity.
Following the kidnap of 276 girls on April 14, 2014, 57 of the girls escaped within days of their abduction, two others escaped and were found by security forces, 21 were freed last year through government negotiations with their captors, while another 82 regained their freedom at the weekend.
The reception for the girls at the Villa lasted for 45 minutes. However, the presidency said would directly supervise the rehabilitation of the girls who were conveyed to a safe and undisclosed location in Abuja yesterday.
Answering questions from journalists thereafter, Buhari’s chief spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said in addition to the rehabilitation of the girls, their medical examinations would continue.

While addressing the girls, Buhari described their release as a pleasant second year anniversary gift to the people of Nigeria.
Buhari, according to a statement by Adesina, said he was delighted by the girls’ release, assuring the public that the remaining girls and other Nigerians kidnapped by the insurgents would also regain their freedom.
“This is a pleasant second anniversary gift to the people of Nigeria. I cannot express in a few words how happy I am to welcome our dear girls back to freedom.
“On behalf of all Nigerians, I will like to share my joy with you, your parents, your relatives, friends and government of Borno State on regaining your freedom.
“The federal government will like to commend the security agencies, the Red Cross, local authorities, local and foreign NGOs and all those who contributed in one way or another to secure the release of our Chibok girls.

“Let me reassure Nigerians, especially relatives and friends of the remaining girls that the federal government will spare no effort to see that they and all other Nigerians who have been abducted safely regain their freedom.
“Finally, I am pleased to have personally met you and let me assure you that the presidency will personally supervise the performance of those entrusted with your welfare and commitment made by the federal government on your health, education, security and general wellbeing.
“No human being should go through this kind of ordeal. The security agencies and state governments should continue to provide special protection to education institutions vulnerable to this kind of outrage especially in remote areas.
“This administration is resolutely determined to safeguard the security of all Nigerians at all times. Once again, l congratulate you and your parents on your safe return,” Buhari was quoted saying.

BBOG, Saraki, Dogara Laud Buhari

Also reacting to the girls’ release, the Bring Back Our Girls Group yesterday commended the federal government for the release of 82 more Chibok girls.
The group, in a statement signed by its leaders, Oby Ezekwesili and Aisha Yesufu noted that it was exceedingly delighted by the good news which it said has been long awaited following upon the release of 21 #ChibokGirls last October.
According to the BBOG, “The Nigerian presidency has confirmed through a statement from the presidency that 82 of our missing 195 #ChibokGirls have been released via a negotiated deal through the combined effort of security agencies, the military, the government of Switzerland, the Red Cross, local and international NGOs.

“The statement also conveys that the girls are due to arrive in Abuja to be received by the president today (yesterday). We are exceedingly delighted by this good news that has been long awaited following last October when upon the release of our 21 #ChibokGirls, our federal government promised that another 83 were being negotiated to be released very soon.
“We commend Mr. President, the federal government and all the other partners for this heartwarming development.
“We are also glad that the statement from the presidency makes a strong commitment to rescuing the remaining 113 of our #ChibokGirls that are still captives of terrorists.”
The group urged the Muhammadu Buhari administration to earnestly pursue the release of all the outstanding Chibok girls and other abducted citizens of Nigeria.
“We once again offer our absolute support to the initiative of the government necessary to bring collate to this tragedy.
“We are eagerly looking forward to the official release of the names of the 82 girls in order to enable us as usual verify them against the #ChibokGirls list generated by the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on the Abduction of the Chibok Schoolgirls (General Ibrahim Sabo Committee) report of 20 June 2014.
“Once we are able to do so, we shall communicate our findings to the public.

“We once again thank everyone all over the world who has persisted with the parents of our #ChibokGirls and our movement in demanding for their rescue,” BBOG said.
Also, the President of the Senate commended Buhari and the security agencies for the efforts that resulted in the release of the girls who were abducted in 2014.
Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, also lauded the Red Cross for its contribution towards the release of the girls.
“As a father, I can’t help but feel delighted and excited at the release of the 82 schoolgirls. When they were taken from us, the whole world joined in demanding for their return — now, it is a testament to the tenacity and commitment of the federal government led by Mr. President that they are back with us, and will soon be reunited with their families,” the Senate President said.
“Last year, we managed to secure the release of 21 girls. Today, 82. By this feat, those that are still out there should be rest assured that Nigeria will not forget them, and this government will continue to do everything within its power to bring them back home,” Saraki said.

“Moving forward, the security forces must be commended. However, the work is not yet done, too many families are still anxious today. Too many of our daughters have not returned,” Saraki added.
He also said that the National Assembly would continue to complement the efforts of the executive and international partners to secure the release of the rest of the girls and end the Boko Haram menace once and for all.
Similarly, Dogara described the release of 82 girls as delightful and heartening, and commended Buhari for the feat.
Dogara, in a statement issued in Bauchi Sunday by his media aide, Mr Turaki Hassan, also commended the efforts of security agencies and others involved in the negotiation process.
“Last month, the House of Representatives adopted a motion, urging the executive to expedite negotiation for the release of the schoolgirls who remained in captivity and the news of the release of 82 Chibok girls is delightful to say the least.
“President Buhari has further proven that he is a man of his words, as he could have used the initial inaction by the previous administration as an excuse to not take action, but he didn’t.
“It has been said in many quarters that true leadership is defined not by apportioning blame, but by solving challenges irrespective of their genesis and the president deserves all commendation for this feat.
“It is extremely gladdening that these 82 girls will finally be reunited with their families.
“It is my ardent hope that they get the required medical attention and that the other girls and all others who remain in captivity are released soon,” Dogara said.

Girl Released With a Baby

However, AFP reported yesterday that three Chadian nationals, allegedly senior commanders under Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, were handed over to the insurgents as part of the negotiated release from the 82 girls.
Military and civilian militia sources in the town of Banki, on the border with Cameroon, said the girls left for the Borno State capital Maiduguri on board six military helicopters at 6.10 a.m. yesterday en route to Abuja.
“One of the girls was carrying a baby with her, a boy of less than two years,” said the source on condition of anonymity.
Also, another girl returned with an amputated leg, while another had her arm in a sling.
“Two of the girls have injuries,” said Kyari, who received the girls at the Abuja airport.
“One has an arm injury, the other has a leg injury.” He was quick to point out that the amputation had nothing to do with the “rescue” operation, which he said was carried out “professionally and without any hitch.”
Shehu Sani, a Nigerian senator who has been involved in previous negotiations, said the talks lasted for “three to four months”.
The government would now look to secure the release of the remaining hostages, he added.
The audacious kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls brought the insurgency to world attention, triggering global outrage that galvanised support from the former US first lady Michelle Obama and Hollywood stars.

Red Cross Speaks on Its Role

But as Nigerians celebrated the release of more girls, the Red Cross (@ICRC) in Africa yesterday explained its role in securing their release.
The agency said on its Twitter page that it only acted as an intermediary between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, adding that its vehicles were used to transport the freed girls to Nigerian officials at Banki.
Patrick Youssef who tweeted the agency’s position said: “With the agreement of all the parties involved, we @ICRC acted as a neutral intermediary to facilitate their transport back.
“Many families have lost contact because of the conflict and the #LakeChadCrisis. We’re so relieved in this case that families can be reunited.”
ICRC had played a similar role last year October when Nigeria got the first batch of 21 Chibok girls released.


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