President Muhammadu Buhari declared on Wednesday that there is no justification for the incompetent manner in which the immediate-past president Goodluck Jonathan badly mishandled the abduction and the government’s failure to rescue the 276 Chibok girls after they were kidnapped from their school campus in Borno State on April 14, last year.
Worse still, conflicting reports given by the Federal Government and the security chiefs a few days after the girls were abducted projected the Jonathan government in bad light both at the local and international level.
Simultaneously, Boko Haram militants and their gory activities did not in any way represent Islam or any other religion, saying it was ludicrous for them to kill innocent human beings and claim they did so in Allah’s name.
“You can’t go and kill innocent people and say ‘Allah Akbar’! It is either you don’t believe it or you don’t know what you are saying. So, it has nothing to do with religion. They (Boko Haram) are just terrorists and Nigeria will demobilise all of them,” Buhari vowed.
The President stated this when he met with members of BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group and some parents of the over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok town in Borno State who were abducted by Boko Haram in April, last year.
Led by former education minister, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Hadiza Bala-Usman and Mariam Uwais, the group met with Buhari inside the council chambers in Aso Villa. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, security chiefs and other officials also attended the meeting.
Addressing the group, Buhari said there is no justification for the incompetent manner in which the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan handled the abduction of the 276 Chibok girls.
According to him, conflicting reports given by the Federal Government and the security chiefs a few days after the girls were abducted projected the Jonathan government in bad light both at the local and international level.
“In representing the government of Nigeria, we cannot rationalise the government’s incompetence in dealing with this issue. We only ask for your patience,” Buhari stated.
He described government’s response to the abduction of the girls at the time as unfortunate and far from being impressive.
Berating the sect, he said the terrorist group’s activities were bizarre and inconsistent with the faith they proclaimed.
“We are pleased that in the excesses of the terrorists, they have blown up themselves. I think they have to change their names from Boko Haram to something else because no religion will kill innocents,” he said.
The President expressed dismay that Nigeria, which had a track record of having a formidable military that performed excellently in peace keeping missions across the globe, was now seeking help from her less endowed neighbours to halt the raging insurgency.
Blaming the past government for some of the security lapses, he said, “It is unfortunate that the security agencies’ and federal government’s conflicting reports initially presented the government and its agencies in a very bad light both nationally and internationally because the law enforcement agencies and the government were conflicting with each other, sometimes within hours or within weeks.
“That is not very impressive. The delayed and late reaction by the former government and its agencies was very unfortunate, as I said.”
Buhari explained he was taking the issue of insurgency seriously, and gave the assurance his government would bring the Boko Haram sect to its knees in a matter of time.
He said: “I think you will agree that the present government takes the issue very seriously. Within a week of being sworn in, I visited Niger, Chad and would have visited Cameroon but for the invitation of the G7 to go to Germany and listen to them.
“I’m very impressed with the leadership of this important group (G7). Other than the United Nations itself, they are very concerned about the security in Nigeria which led to the abduction of the Chibok girls by the terrorists.
“When the terrorists announced their loyalty to ISIS, the whole attention again was brought squarely to Nigeria. And now, we are rated with Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria; this is very unfortunate.
“After Ramadan, I will visit Cameroon to see the president there and then Benin Republic. But the efforts we have been making, some we will not disclose publicly, but I assure you that under the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the military forces have met, the ministers of defence have met, we the presidents have met here in Abuja except the president of Cameroon who was represented by his minister of defence.
“Strategies and tactics have been drawn, Multinational Joint Task Force has been put in place more or else with headquarters in N’Djamena with a Nigerian general as commander. And then the troops delegated by each of the countries are to be put in place by the end of the month.
“And Nigeria, I assure you, will do its best because we, as I said, are the battle ground and we are being helped by our neighbours. It is paradoxical what the Nigerian military has achieved from Burma to Zaire to Liberia to Sierra Leon to Sudan. But Nigeria has now to be helped by Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. How are the mighty fallen!
“We will do our best to restore the respectability of our country and its institutions. And with you, your steadfastness and your seriousness, we will do what we can do; we will accommodate all your observations, including the negative ones about the performance of the government and its agencies,” the President said.
Buhari further assured the BBOG that government would provide infrastructure in Chibok community.
The BBOG had earlier told the President that they decided to march to the Presidential Villa to brief him about their struggle, following their suspicion that the narrative it may have received from the immediate-past administration might be full of distortions.
This was the first time the group would be received in Aso Villa after such attempts in the past were fiercely resisted by the last administration.
Presenting their demands to the President, Ezekwesili urged the Federal Government to apologise for the failure of governance that led to the abduction of the schoolgirls in the first place, and the inability to rescue them after more than a year in captivity.
She noted that the main priority of BBOG was to ensure that the girls were immediately released, as, according to her, they had overstayed in the hands of their captors.
The group also demanded that a structured feedback mechanism be established at a ministerial level by government to show that citizens matter.
She said, “The Federal Government should spare no resources in urgently rescuing our 219 Chibok girls as promised by the President and the National Security Adviser to the President at various times. Our Federal Government has the constitutional duty to give justice to our Chibok girls by ensuring their immediate rescue.
“The rescue of our Chibok girls will amount to the strongest statement that our government has respect for the sanctity and dignity of every Nigerian life.”
They also requested that the Federal Government set up a commission of inquiry on the abduction and rescue of the girls.
Representative of Chibok Development Association in Abuja, Dauda Iliya, sought the immediate rescue of the abducted girls, just as he appealed to the President to ensure that the agrarian Chibok community was provided with basic social amenities.
Others who attended the meeting included the Head of service, National security adviser, service chiefs, Inspector-general of police, permanent secretary (State House) and the new director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS).