Chibok girls: Parents shun meeting with Jonathan

  • BringBackOurGirls campaigners cry out over renewed harassment by Police.

A meeting scheduled between President Goodluck Jonathan and parents of over 200 abducted girls in Chibok could not hold on Tuesday as the parents shunned the meeting.

The meeting was arranged after education activist and a victim of terrorist attack, Malala Yousofazai, met with Jonathan on Monday and pleaded with him to meet with the parents of the abducted girls to encourage them.

But in a statement delivered by his Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, Jonathan accused the BringBackOurGirls activists of politicising the planned meeting by taking the parents out of Abuja before the meeting could hold.

Every arrangement had been made for the planned meeting with president, including sending a bus from the Presidential Villa to bring the parents of the girls.

The President’s statement noted that “those who would manipulate the victims of terrorism for their own benefit are engaging in a similar kind of evil: psychological terrorism.”

It further reads: “It now appears that our fight to get the girls of Chibok back is not only a fight against a terrorist insurgency, but also against a political opposition.

“It is with great regret that I announce the cancellation of the meeting with 12 parents of the abducted Chibock children, as well as five of the brave girls who escaped from the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram.

“I scheduled this meeting, which was to be open to the media for coverage by Nigerian and international press, to listen to their stories and to privately brief the parents and the girls on our efforts to rescue the abducted girls. My priority is not politics. My priority is the return of these girls.

“Unfortunately, political forces within the Nigerian chapter of BringBackOurGirls have decided to take this opportunity to play politics with the situation and the grief of the parents and the girls. They should be ashamed of their actions.

“Those who would manipulate the victims of terrorism for their own benefit, are engaging in a similar kind of evil: psychological terrorism.

“I want to be clear, this government stands with complete solidarity with the girls and their parents. We are doing everything in our power to bring back our girls. Despite the shameful and disgusting games being played by the Nigerian chapter of BringBackOurGirls, as a father of girls, I stand ready to meet with the parents of our abducted children and the truly brave girls that have escaped this nightmare through the grace of God.”

Addressing state House correspondents later, Okupe accused the BringBackOurGirls activists of stopping the parents of the girls from meeting with the president.

He also accused them of showmanship and not showing any serious concern for the tragedy that had befallen parents whose girls were abducted.

Okupe, however, said in order to show that he was serious with meeting with the parents of the girl, Jonathan had directed that a formal letter be written to the parents of the abducted girls to reschedule the meeting.

Okupe said: “The meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. today (yesterday) at the instance of the request that was made by Malala and the President graciously agreed within 24 hours to meet with them but unfortunately the BringBackOurGirls leadership prevailed on the parents of the girls, stopped them from coming.

“Therefore, what happened was that they actually shunned the meeting with Mr. President because the foreign media and everybody was waiting for this meeting and since they were no longer coming and they made it expressly clear that they were no longer coming, in fact, that the girls were just few minutes away from Chibok, the meeting was aborted.

“It is obvious now that the BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria are interested in showmanship not genuinely concerned with the plight of the children and that of their parents. That is was has become clinically clear by this action because if the parents of the girls travelled so much from Chibok to Abuja, why will it be impossible for them to meet with the President who has graciously agreed to give an appointment within less than 24 hours to meet with them.

“We are just coming from the President and he has authorised that an official letter be written to the parents inviting them to formally come and meet him and it is going to be sometime next week.”

Meanwhile, the BringBackOurGirls campaigners have cried out over renewed harassment by the Police.

A statement signed on its behalf by former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili and Hadiza Bala Usman on Tuesday reads: “The Abuja Family of the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign, in keeping with its sustained advocacy on placing the abduction of the Chibok girls at the centre of national discourse until the girls are rescued, wrote and got approval to meet with the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives earlier today.

“Sadly, in keeping up with its pattern of harassment and intimidation of members of our movement, the Nigerian Police Force detached heavily armed policemen who prevented our members from entering a coaster bus hired to convey us from the Unity Fountain to the National Assembly to meet with the leadership of the National Assembly. Following this unlawful obstruction and seizure, we decided to proceed in our private cars.

“At the National Assembly, the Nigerian Police Force sealed off all exits and entrances into the assembly complex, thus denying us – harmless citizens – any access to keep our appointment with elected representatives of the people.

“As a group, we once again remind the Nigerian police that its constitutional responsibility in a democracy is to provide citizens safety and security while maintaining law and order.

“We are widely acknowledged as a very disciplined civic movement, and we therefore find the constant infringement upon our fundamental human rights as not only unconstitutional but repugnant in a democracy.

“As we count 92 days since the over 200 Chibok girls have been abducted, we also call on Government to focus its energy on ensuring that our girls are rescued safe and alive within the shortest possible time rather than continue to use intimidation tactics and military-rule styled repression on peaceful protesters.

“We shall not be discouraged, distracted or diverted from our single cause.  As a group, we shall remain resolute in exploring all peaceful options to continue to convey our demand on the Federal Government to #BringBackOurGirls Now and ALIVE!”