Abati claims Jonathan never planned to visit Chibok

President Goodluck Jonathan

There had been reports of a presidential visit to Chibok, the town where over 250 girls were kidnapped.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, has claimed that the president had no plans to visit Chibok on Friday.

However, presidential aides, including those who accompany Mr. Jonathan on such visits, countered Mr. Abati, saying the spokesperson was just trying to ‘save face.’

“Everybody at the Villa knows that we were asked to prepare for the Chibok trip on Thursday. Some of us in the advanced party even left yesterday,” a presidential aide, who sought anonymity as he was not authorised to speak, said.

Mr. Jonathan has been heavily criticised for failing to visit the community one month after over 250 students were kidnapped by the Boko Haram from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State.

Following local and international outrage at the kidnap, the international community led by the U.S. and the U.K. are assisting the Nigerian government in the search for the teenage girls with Nigerians expressing some sought of relief when the news of Mr. Jonathan’s planned visit filtered from the villa on Thursday.

Mr. Abati, however, said in a series of tweets on his twitter handle @abati1990 that the planned visit was a rumour.

His tweets came several minutes after a presidency source told the BBC that the trip was shelved for security reasons.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported what reliable presidency sources said on Thursday that Mr. Jonathan planned to stopover in Chibok on Friday before travelling to France for the security meeting.

“What do you expect Abati to say? They just cancelled the trip,” another aide at the Villa said on Friday.

Officials in the Borno government also said on Thursday that they were expecting the president on Friday, with some questioning Mr. Jonathan’s plans to fly from Maiduguri to Chibok without travelling through the bad road that links the Borno capital with the troubled community.

The federal Damboa, Chibok, Mbalala highway is yet to be constructed years after money was budgeted for it.

Borno, like Yobe and Adamawa has been under emergency rule since May last year with a renewed offensive by the Boko Haram leading to the death of over two thousand people in 2014.

Since the 2014 attacks began, including an attack on a federal school in Buni Yadi, Yobe, in February, Mr. Jonathan is yet to visit either Yobe or Borno to commensurate with families of the victims.

Security reasons
Presidency sources told the BBC that Mr. Jonathan cancelled his visit to Chibok for security reasons.

The insecurity in the troubled states is also believed to be the reason Mr. Jonathan has not visited there in 2014.

When the Buni Yadi incident occurred, several Nigerians including the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, advised the president to follow the lines of world leaders in similar climes who have experienced such disasters by visiting the school and the community to reassure the victims’ families and residents of the area of government’s support.

Almost three months after the incident, Mr. Jonathan has not visited the community and has given no reason for his inaction. All the federal government did was to shut the school and all other federal schools in Borno and Yobe.

To check the worsening insurgency in the Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, Mr. Jonathan has asked for the emergency rule in the affected states to be increased by six months starting from May 14.

Critics of the emergency rule including the governments of the affected states have, however, said they are opposed to the extension as it has not checked the atrocities of the Boko Haram.

The House of Representatives approved the extension on Thursday with the Senate set to decide on it next Tuesday.

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