The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, on Tuesday said the Nigerian government remained committed to ensuring the rescue of the abducted Chibok girls one year after their abduction.
Mrs. Okonjo Iweala made the pledge at a meeting with representatives of the Chibok Community in Abuja on Tuesday, on the Safe School Initiative.
The minister was represented on the occasion by Anasthesia Nwaobia, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance.
She said the meeting was part of efforts to let the community know that the rescue of the girls, reconstruction of schools and making Chibok safe remained top priority of government.
“Today is a day that marks the first anniversary of the abduction of our brave girls in Chibok; they were callously taken away from us and family with the aim of depriving them of having quality education,” she said. “Their absence will create a vacuum in space but they are in our minds.”
She expressed the hope that the girls would be rescued.
Commenting on the Safe School initiative, the minister said that the project and search for the girls would continue notwithstanding the change in government.
She said the initiative was committed to ensuring that teachers and students were secure and properly educated in a conducive environment.
“A lot of work has been done in the remodelling of the school to ensure that it is properly reconstructed,” she said. “We have completed the technical aspect of the work and the construction plan is ready, in couple of weeks, we will move to site.”
Tsambido Abana, Chairman, Chibok Area Development Association, said it was unfortunate that after 365 days, the girls were yet to be rescued.
He said the community welcomed all government efforts to remodel and reconstruct the school but noted that the rescue of the girls was more important to the community.
“We are saying that what we are seeing has fallen short of the expectations of the community,” he said. “The abduction of the girls kept the community devastated. We really want to know what government is doing in this regard; we have been hearing so many stories, we don’t know which one to take. Yes, the reconstruction of the schools but one has to be alive to go to school.”
Also, Battah Ndirpaya, the national secretary of the association, said there was no training and school available to ‘out of school’ children in the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps.
He said the community appreciated the effort of the minister but noted that more should be done to empower the community and build more schools.
On his part, Mike Omeri, director general, National Orientation Agency, said the plight of the community reflected the feelings of all Nigerians.
He said there was deep national commitment to efforts aimed at finding the girls and restoring hope for the community.
“This national commitment requires total support and understanding,” he said. “We should avoid hearsay and speculative ambitions and be more focused. For me, it is not one year to celebrate. What is required is total commitment and government has not lost sense of responsibility?”
He said finding the girls was top government priority and added that no resource invested in doing it would be a waste.