FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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THE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES TO RESCUE THE CHIBOK GIRLS
Saturday, October 5, 2019 marked 2,000 Days since 276 schoolgirls were abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram.
§ 57 girls escaped in the first 24 hours.
§ In the last 5 years, 107 of the 219 girls held captive either escaped; were released after negotiations; or were found after the army liberated the areas where they were being held.
§ To date, 112 Chibok Girls remain captives of the terrorists.
The Bring Back Our Girls movement decided to meet daily at the Unity Fountain in Abuja after the first protest on April 30th because we believed we needed to put consistent pressure on the President Goodluck Jonathan government to find and rescue the Chibok Girls. Our initial engagements and responses received had clearly indicated that the abduction was not taken seriously.
Our perception was confirmed in the investigative piece published by the Wall Street Journal in December 2017. Some excerpts from the article:
“To the surprise of Obama’s Africa team, the abduction of an entire student body barely registered in the press at home or abroad. In Nigeria, the reaction was muffled by military leaders who informed their president the kidnapping seemed to be a hoax.
‘We knew this was going to be big,’ said Grant T. Harris, Obama’s Africa director. “But it was initially met with a deafening silence.’”
“The first lady’s photo (May 7) would front nearly every Nigerian newspaper, blindsiding President Goodluck Jonathan, whose military still suspected the kidnapping had never happened. Facing an unprecedented form of public pressure from his most powerful ally, Jonathan had few options. He accepted the White House’s request to launch a rescue effort.”
“’We gave them a hammer, but they never picked it up,’ an American officer said. ‘There wasn’t enough political will.’”
“The #BringBackOurGirls campaign had made Nigeria a magnet for reward chasers and have-a-go heroes. The government fuelled the chaos by paying millions of dollars for information that led nowhere. Reuben Abati, President Jonathan’s spokesman at the time, acknowledged the search became a gold rush. ‘There were too many actors working at cross-purposes,’ he said.”
In his memoir, For the Record, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron wrote that at the time of the abduction, British troops traced the location of some of the girls and offered to help, but former President Goodluck Jonathan refused. Even though Mr Cameron’s book was published on September 19, 2019, this part of the book was highlighted as family, friends and concerned citizens painfully marked 2,000 Days of the abduction.
In his words, “As ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign spread across the world, we embedded a team of military and intelligence experts in Nigeria and sent spy planes and Tornadoes with thermal imaging to search for the missing girls. And, amazingly, from the skies above a forest three times the size of Wales, we managed to locate some of them. … But Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, seemed to be asleep at the wheel. When he eventually made a statement, it was to accuse the campaigners of politicizing the tragedy. And absolutely crucially, when we offered to help rescue the girls we had located, he refused.”
However, in a swift response, former President Jonathan issued a statement asserting that Mr Cameron’s claims are inaccurate. He says, “In his book, Mr. Cameron failed to mention that I wrote him requesting his help on Chibok. Why did he suppress that information? I remind him that copies of that letter exist at the State Houses in Nigeria and London. He never called me on the phone to offer any help. On the contrary, I am the one that reached out to him.”
He also stated, “I also authorized the secret deployment of troops from the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel as a result of the Chibok incident, so how Mr. Cameron could say this with a straight face beats me.”
A Nigeria Senator at the time of the abduction has also supported Mr Cameron, stating that his interaction with President Jonathan in the company of nine other Senators and senior government officials showed clearly that the abduction was not being taken seriously. In his words, “…We met him at the First Lady’s meeting room. His service chiefs, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Inspector General of Police (IGP), Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) were also there. Pius Anyim, the then SGF. President Jonathan made us believe all through the meeting that the Chibok story was not real. It was staged. That it was politics. He tried very hard to convince us. This was his mindset and he made no apologies about it.”
Our perceptions, the Wall Street Journal article, a serving Senator’s recollections, that have not been debunked, clearly support Mr Cameron’s assertions.
In describing the fate of the Chibok Girls, Mr Cameron said, “Some of the girls have managed to escape over the following four years, and others have been released, but over a hundred are still missing. Once again. the combination of Islamist extremism and bad governance proved fatal.”
The deadly combination of bad governance and terrorism has been at the heart of our cry to Bring Back Our Girls for over five years because if the government’s disposition to security and human dignity is not reprogrammed, our girls will not return and more of our children will continue to be abducted.
As a citizens-led movement, we are committed to reminding the government of the day of its constitutional responsibility to make the security and welfare of Nigerian citizens its priority. Today, our core demand remains the same, relevant today as it has been on each of the over 2,000 days we have turned up in Abuja, Lagos, London, New York, Washington, DC and all around the world, pressuring two consecutive Presidents of Nigeria to rescue the remaining 112 Chibok Girls, Leah Sharibu and thousands of others that remain in captivity.
For as long as they remain in captivity, we shall continue to carry them in our hearts and make our voices resound and reecho our cries of five years: “Mr President, #BringBackOurGirls now and alive!”
What are we demanding?
#BringBackOurGirls Now & Alive
What are we asking?
The truth, nothing but the truth!
What do we want?
Our girls back now and alive!
When shall we stop?
Not until our girls are back and alive! Not without our daughters!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls Abuja Family
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls Lagos Family
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls New York Family
Laurie Cumbo (New York City Council)
Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
R. Evon Benson-Idahosa
Rodneyse Bichotte (New York State Assembly)
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls Washington DC Family