#BringBackOurGirls’ Post Re-engagement Statement With President Buhari
14 January 2016
As earlier announced, our movement along with the parents and community of our missing 219 Chibok girls did a march on the 14th January 2016 to re-engage with the President as a follow-on engagement to our earlier engagement of 8th July 2014, and subsequent developments around the rescue and safe return of our missing 219 Chibok girls.
Typically, we march from Unity Fountain Abuja, our usual meeting grounds to the venues of our engagements. However, during our previous engagement with the President on 8th July 2015, the State House, provided buses to convey us from the State House Pilot Gate to the meeting venue as it is breach of state protocol to stage a march within the State House. However, today those buses were unavailable and we therefore had to wait. Subsequently, they were provided, we were conveyed to the meeting venue, and were seated by 10.30 am at the State House Banquet Hall for the meeting.
A Federal Government team comprising the Ministers of Women Affairs and Social Development, and Defence, the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS),and the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Public Affairs) arrived and informed us that they had been delegated to meet with us; the parents, community, and our movement. We were informed that the President was himself absent, as he was in a meeting with the visiting President of Benin Republic.
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development who was introduced as the leader of the delegation commenced the meeting, and began by providing updates of the government’s plans through her ministry to provide welfare support and progress reports to the parents. When she called on the leaders of our movement to respond to her opening remarks and make our presentation, we respectfully remarked that we would rather wait for the President no matter how long it took. We averred that he had given us a strong pledge on the rescue of our Chibok girls when we met with him on 8 July 2015. However, having heard the progress report as delivered during the media chat of 30 December 2015 which has caused deep anguish, we felt was better to re-engage with him in the spirit of his commitment to upholding citizens’ demands for accountability as he clearly stated during our 8th July 2015 meeting.
The Chairman of the Chibok community responded similarly conveying the strong desire of the Chibok parents to hear directly from Mr President as the father of the nation.
In her reaction, the head of the State delegation advised the parents not to be “sentimental” about this matter, but to be “understanding with the Federal Government.”
The Minister of Defence, the NSA and CDS respectively apologised to the parents for the inconveniences suffered during their trip to Abuja for this meeting, and craved their indulgence and understanding. They also spoke about their personal empathy as parents, and that the Federal Government was doing its all to rescue our girls, bring them back safely, and end the insurgency.
A few parents were called upon by the community to express the reasons they were insistent on meeting with the President. Thereafter, the the group (i.e. the parents, the Chibok community and our movement) was informed that Mr President would be joining the meeting as requested after his meeting with the visiting President Benin Republic; after which the meeting went into recess awaiting the arrival of the President.
The President arrived in the company of the Federal Government delegation and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), and we were informed that the meeting would be very brief.
We made our presentation (kindly see: http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/bringbackourgirls-re-engagement-with-mr-president/). Speaking on behalf of the Chibok parents, 2 fathers and a mother of our missing 219 Chibok expressed their pain and frustrations at the lingering state of the non-rescue of their daughters, but at the same time optimism and hope. They also commended the military and asked them to do whatever they can to rescue their daughters. A father called for a reopening of the investigations into the circumstances and events around the abduction of their daughters as they are unsatisfied with the last presidential fact-finding committee’s work. The other called for updates to them by the Federal Government. That the complete silence was traumatising. The mother cried “…I want my baby back in whatever shape or form she may be.”
The President in his brief remarks said the abduction happened before his government, and despite the condition of the country he inherited, his government has accomplished a lot towards ending the insurgency in the North-east region. Some achievements outlined by Mr President include changing the Service Chiefs and NSA, and commencement of restructuring of the military and security system, and the decimation of Boko Haram which he said held territories in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, but no longer do so. He continued by expressing displeasure that the group did not commend his administration for all that he has accomplished. He then reiterated his message of 30th December 2015 that he had no “credible intelligence” about our Chibok girls.
In reassuring the group however, he said, “I assure you that I go to bed and wake up every day with the Chibok girls on my mind”, promising that he would continue to do his best in rescuing our Chibok girls.
He then thanked all for coming and departed, leaving the Federal Government delegation behind to continue with the meeting.
Specific Outcomes of Our 14th January 2016 Re-engagement with Mr President
1. The NSA’s commitment to leading the institutionalising of a structured feedback mechanism that would keep the parents, community, and our movement updated on progress being made with the Federal Government rescue operation.
NOTE: It may be recalled that this was one of our specific demands during the 8th July 2015 engagement with Mr President.
2. A proposal related to the rescue of our Chibok girls already approved by Mr President, to be unveiled shortly.
We were subsequently informed that a new investigation would be launched by the Federal Government into the abduction of our Chibok girls.
NOTE: It would be recalled that our movement made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to access the reports of the Presidential Fact-finding Committees on Crisis in the Northeast, and the Abduction of the Chibok Girls.
Also, that a parent requested for same at today’s re-engagement with the President.
3. The NSA pledged to work more closely with the parents, community, and our movement to encourage the critical security-civic collaboration and information sharing that could help the intelligence-gathering effort of the Federal Government.
As a movement we wish to unequivocally state that today’s meeting was markedly different from the last one of 8 July 2015 in many ways. At the last meeting, the manner in which the President took ownership of the tragedy even though inherited, the strong pledge that he made to the parents, community, and our movement to exhaust every option for our Chibok girls’ rescue, the obvious manner which his tone and message connected with the grieving parent, and his sense of urgency to bring positive closure resonated with our group. Today’s meeting however was different, and the real victims are the 108 parents who set out seeking a boost to their failing hope after 640 days of agonising for their 219 missing daughters.
At the last engagement of 8th July2015 (please see http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/author/bringbackourgirls/page/3/) he impressed everyone by the apt attention he paid to each speaker, diligently took notes and meticulously responded to each subject that was raised. He had also commended our movement for holding government accountability, for our steadfastness in standing on the grounds of shared humanity to advocate for the Chibok girls, other victims of the insurgency, and the Northeast in general. Not so this time.
We consider it a lost opportunity for the President to revive the plunging optimism of the parents, community, our movement, and all others that have held out hope for our Chibok girls’ rescue.
We want to declare with utmost commitment the pledge we made to the parents of our Chibok girls when we first marched to draw attention to their daughters’ abduction 625 days ago on 30th April 2014, that our movement will remain non-retreating in our advocacy for their rescue.
The outcome of today’s meeting with Mr President only offers us the opportunity to reassess various ways that our advocacy can ensure that tangible results are generated by the Federal Government resulting in the speedy rescue and safe return of our Chibok girls.
Meanwhile, we would wish to offer an advice to Mr President with regard to the gulf that revealed in today’s meeting, and which left the parents pained. That it is time for Mr President to visit the parents and community at home in Chibok to emotionally recharge their hope and confidence in his avowed commitment. We believe that the President still has the necessary goodwill arising from his well-acknowledged commitment to rescuing our girls as repeatedly stated starting from his inaugural speech of 29th May 2015.
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls
HADIZA BALA USMAN