Schoolgirls’ abduction: My response better than Jonathan’s, says Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said his administration’s response to the February 19 abduction of 110 pupils of Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, was better than the response of the last administration to a similar abduction in Chibok, Borno State.
He said while the Federal Government under his watch swung into action immediately after the abduction, the last administration looked the other way when schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok in 2014.
Buhari spoke at a town hall meeting with traditional and community leaders, as well as other stakeholders in Damaturu, as part of activities lined up for his official visit to Yobe State.
Buhari, who arrived the state in a Nigerian Air Force helicopter via Maiduguri, touched down at the August 27th Stadium in Damaturu and was received by the state Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, among other top government functionaries.
The President, during the stakeholders’ meeting, said the commitment displayed by his administration had led to the rescue of more than 100 Chibok girls taken into captivity before he assumed office.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan was in the saddle when the Chibok girls were abducted by Boko Haram in 2014.
Buhari said, “The Federal Government’s response to the unfortunate abduction of the schoolgirls is a clear departure from the insensitivity of the past administration which looked the other way while the Chibok girls were taken away in 2014 and held in captivity for over three years.
“Due to our commitment, over 100 Chibok girls have been rescued and reunited with their families, sent back to school and empowered with requisite skills.
“You may recall that recently, our negotiation efforts led to the release of abducted University of Maiduguri lecturers, some women police personnel, students and even an NYSC member.
“We, therefore, have no doubt that the Dapchi girls will be rescued or released. I can assure parents, Nigerians and the international community that we will do all that is within our power to make sure that the girls are brought back safely to their families.”
Buhari promised that any agency, person or group found culpable in the abduction of the girls by the committee set up to investigate the matter would be punished.
“The Federal Government has set up a 12-member committee to unravel the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the students.
“The membership of the committee was drawn from among security agencies and local residents.
“It is my hope that any agency, person or group found to have been negligent or culpable in the abduction of the girls will be punished in accordance with the law,” he said.
The President further stated that he had ordered a 24-hour briefing to him by security agencies on their successes or challenges as regards the rescue mission.
While expecting the report of the committee set up to investigate the abduction, he added that he had asked that appropriate Federal Government authorities to be in constant touch with the Yobe State Government and other neighbouring states to ensure a common strategy and line of action.
He promised that there would be no rest until the last girl from Chibok and Dapchi was released.
The President said the girls, like all other citizens, must enjoy unhindered freedom and pursue their legitimate aspirations.
“The Dapchi and Chibok pupils are our girls and must enjoy our protection. They must live to achieve their individual ambitions; to be great women of tomorrow. It is our duty to protect them.
“We are determined to restore peace to all parts of the country – from the West to the East; North to the South.
“While calling for calm, I implore affected parents and families to restrain from making statements that may jeopardise the success of the rescue mission,” he added.
Buhari, who said he had not left any stone unturned in making sure that the Dapchi girls were rescued, took time to highlight some of the efforts so far made.
He said he had ordered the Service Chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police to take direct charge and brief him daily on the efforts to bring back the girls.
He said the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had visited Dapchi, adding that the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, who was also accompanied by Mohammed, also visited the school for on-the-spot assessment.
The President said he had ordered the re-strengthening of a Joint Operational Base involving relevant agencies and services to coordinate the rescue mission.
Consequently, he disclosed that the Service Commanders had not only established a unified Command Centre in Maiduguri, it also raised several rescue teams to comb the forests in the “North-East Theatre of Operation.”
Buhari said the Nigerian Airforce had maintained aerial surveillance of the area while the Federal Government had sent a delegation of senior officials to visit the state governor and the parents of the girls to re-assure them of the measures the government was taking.
He stated that his government was partnering the international community and organisations to ensure that the girls were safely returned.
The President said his resolve to negotiate with the terrorists for unconditional release of the girls was borne out of his administration’s conviction that doing so was devoid of risk and would not endanger the lives of the girls.
Buhari added, “We have remained resolute in our fight against terrorism and Boko Haram insurgents. Nigerians will readily recall that prior to our coming in 2015, the situation was chaotic with violent terrorist attacks being the order of the day.
“Terrorists had made life very unbearable for the people in Yobe, Kano, Kaduna, Borno, Niger, and even the FCT, Abuja. Our mosques and churches witnessed daily suicide bomb attacks. Parts of Adamawa and Borno states were helplessly ceded to the terrorists.
“But today, we have shown a clear determination in tackling terrorism which is a worldwide phenomenon. We have not only degraded the power and dominance of the criminal elements, our security forces have patriotically exhibited an uncommon zeal in executing their assignment.
“Our achievement in maintaining security is such that the international community and even our critics commend our modest efforts.”
Gaidam, in his remarks, assured the President that Yobe people would continue to accord security agents the necessary support towards enhancing peace in the state.
The governor said security agencies had deployed their personnel in Dapchi and major towns and schools across the state.
He urged the President and the international community to work hard towards the timely rescue of the Dapchi girls.