Chibok community leaders blame presidency for cash gift mess

A presidential aide shared the money to the parents, Chibok leaders say


The leaders of the Chibok community in Abuja on Wednesday accused the presidency of exposing the community to ridicule, after it became public the government splashed millions of naira on parents of the over 250 schoolgirls abducted in the remote Borno State town more than three months ago.

Reports that President Goodluck Jonathan handed N100 million to the distraught parents, when they visited him in Abuja last week, emerged Tuesday after some of the parents complained of being shortchanged when the money was shared.

In details published by the BBC, the aggrieved parents said they were either underpaid or not given anything at all. While some parents were given N200, 000, others received N100, 000, while some went home empty-handed, they told the BBC Hausa service.

But the presidency denied the claims, and explained that besides transportation, feeding and accommodation arrangements, no cash payments were made to the parents, alongside some of the abducted girls who fled Boko Haram’s camp.

On Tuesday, Doyin Okupe, a spokesperson to President Jonathan described the reports as “absolute falsehood”, amid criticisms against the government over the spending, and against the parents, accused by many of opting for pay while their daughters remain in captivity.

But in a statement Wednesday, the Chibok leaders confirmed that at least N22.4 million was shared to the parents and the girls, and accused the presidency of exposing the community that has been under a global spotlight over the abductions, to “reproach and dishonour”.

“While we acknowledge that any well intended support for our suffering population which has lost means of livelihood since the events of April 14 and subsequent attacks could be welcome,” the leaders said, “however the approach that the presidency adopted has brought reproach and dishonour to our community in the eyes of the public that has supported us since the abduction of our daughters.”

Writing under the name Kibaku Area Development Area Development Association, KADA, the group narrated how a senior aide of President Jonathan sneaked into an unnamed Abuja hotel where the parents and the girls were lodged, late in the night, to share the largesse.

“On the night of the 22nd July, 2014 at about midnight, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Duties who had been co-ordinating the visit on the side of the Presidency, visited the hotel and told the 51 escaped girls who came that the Presidency sent them a token of N100, 000.00 each and accordingly gave them the said sum without prior discussion with any KADA official or any other person in the community,” the group said.

The Chibok group said the presidential aide distributed the money despite its earlier warning that the organization did not want to be associated with any monetary transaction during the visit.

“We clearly spelt out to the Presidency through the office of the Chief of Staff that we shall not be involved with any financial transaction whatsoever, including payment of transportation from Chibok to Yola, flight by air from Yola to Abuja, hotel accommodation and feeding in Abuja, intra-city transportation while in Abuja,” they said.

According to KADA, in addition to the girls, the presidential aide  gave 61 parents N200, 000, another 51 parents N100, 000; while 10 parents were not given any money.

The parents also received additional N1 million from Biye Gumtha, the man who represents Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency, in the House of Representatives. The million naira donation was shared N7, 000 to each of the parents, they said.

The presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, told PREMIUM TIMES the president was unaware of any payment of money to the visitors.

“The president did not give approval for money to be distributed to anybody,” Mr. Abati insisted. “The president’s commitment is to get the girls safely back. This is not an occasion for blackmail. This is unknown to the president.”

Asked if it was possible for the president to host the distraught parents and the girls without gifts, Mr. Abati said the president does not have to give gifts to visitors.

“If people are guests of the president, it is standard routine that the government will take care of logistics,” he said.

He insisted the “president did not direct that people should be bribed”.

On whether the president will investigate the claims, Mr. Abati said “If the office of the president is being dragged into this, you can be sure it will be investigated”.

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