The #BringBackOurGirls group has drawn the attention of Nigerians to the silence of the federal government to a letter highlighting the group’s key observations and suggestions on how to secure the return of the remaining 195 Chibok schoolgirls still in Boko Haram captivity.
The group claimed the letter was delivered to the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, with copies sent to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, following a guided tour of Sambisa forest in January by some of its members.
The group said since the letter was sent to the government, it has not received any reply from the government. It said the “silence” that has greeted the letter was in “stark contrast” to the fanfare with which the government extended the invitation to its members to tour the infamous stronghold of Boko Haram.
The Nigerian military successfully dislodged the terrorists from the forest last December.
“Concluding on the basis of facts and evidence obtained from the Sambisa Forest tour, we conveyed a more pointed demand on the Federal Government to negotiate and bring back our remaining 195 Chibok Girls,” the group said in a statement.
“Since our letter was sent to the federal government over two months ago, our Movement has not received a reply from the Federal Government.
“We consider it grossly objectionable that the Federal Government chose to be unresponsive to a letter that was addressed and delivered to the Minister of Information as well as copied and sent to the Vice President, the Chief of Staff of the President and the Minister of Defence,” the statement added.
The group said in view of the government’s continued silence, it has decided to publish the content of the letter so as to make it clear to the government that it cannot continue to “scuttle public scrutiny and demand for accountability” on the status of the girls still in captivity.
“We request the rest of the Nigerian people and others around the world who have stood in empathy for the cause of our ChibokGirls to join our movement in prevailing on the Federal Government to act on our demand.”
In the letter dated 23 January 2017 and titled: “Letter of Appreciation for Guided Tour of Sambisa; Next Step of Action”, while acknowledging the sacrifices of soldiers of the Nigerian military to securing the country from the deadly Boko Haram sect, the group said it was disappointed by the conduct of the federal government and military establishment, which it said have failed in proving the troops with the necessary resources and equipment to excel.
“Evidently since our Chibok Girls were abducted and our movement began advocating for their rescue, what the public sees – especially in the early years of the terrorist insurgency – is failure of leadership to appropriately prioritise, resource, guide troops, and make strategic decisions for their rescue.”
The group said having seen the effort being made by the Nigerian Air Force to search and rescue the girls, it suggested that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration must “urgently take strategic options decision.”
“The fierce urgency of such a strategic decision is to avoid our remaining 195 girls who are now 1015 days in the captivity of terrorists being there until Day 1100 – that is three years since their abduction.
“From what we gathered during the guided tour and data presented to us, it is evident that in the prosecution of the anti-insurgency war, the military pursues the following two options; (a) direct military activity which secures our territorial integrity, and (b)direct and indirect military activity which leads to the recovery of abducted citizens.”
The group pointed out that three of the abducted Chibok girls and thousands of other abducted individuals have been rescued through direct or indirect military intervention.
It however explained that 21 Chibok girls were released through direct negotiation with their abductors. It added that since the release of the 21 girls, the federal government claimed it was working to secure the release of more girls.
Therefore the group said that this clearly shows that negotiation remained the best option to secure the release of the 195 girls still in captivity.
“It is for this reason that our movement, while urging the military to further accelerate its counter-insurgency operations, must now specifically demand that the federal government urgently conclude negotiation for the release of the rest of our Chibok girls which the Minister of Information confirmed during our guided tour.
“Our movement demands decisiveness on the part of the government on this matter considering how costly any further delays can be to the girls and our country.”
The group also frowns at the secrecy of the the government rehabilitation programme the 24 freed Chibok girls were being subjected to. It wondered why the aim the programme seeks to achieve is not communicated even to their parents.
“We as a movement had designed a global best practice system of Verification, Authentication and Reuniting of abducted citizens when rescued. The Verification, Authentication, Reunification System (VARS) is holistic for Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Resettlement of victims of abduction”.
It was part of the package of solutions presented to the president during our meetings of July 2015 and January 2016. We request for an urgent meeting to receive a progress report on the rehabilitation programme of the Twenty-Four girls and to discuss how to achieve their quick restoration to wholesomeness in preparation for the return of the rest of their 195 school mates.”
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