- UPDATE: Jonathan, Mark meet Chibok girls’ parents
- Complete photos of the meeting between President Jonathan and Chibok girls and parents
Put together by Ehi Ekhator, Naija Center News
Ninety-nine days after their children and wards were abducted in a midnight raid on their school, President Goodluck Jonathan, on Tuesday met with parents of the girls abducted from Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on April 14.
Journalists were barred from covering the meeting which was held inside the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
That was contrary to a statement released last week by the Presidency, saying the parley would be “open to the media for coverage by Nigerian and international press.”
Those who attended the meeting included 51 girls who escaped from their abductors including their principal, parents of escaped girls, parents of the girls still in captivity, opinion and community leaders from Chibok as well as officials of the Borno State Government.
They were conveyed to and from the venue in four red luxury buses belonging to the Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited amidst tight security provided by a combined team of men of the Department of State Security and armed policemen.
The security operatives shielded them from journalists before and after the meeting that lasted about three hours.
The venue wore a somber look with the escaped girls who looked traumatised being the cynosure of all eyes.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday said although he had not visited Chibok, Borno State since April 14 when over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped, his desire was to visit the town after the girls might have been rescued.
He said it was only then that parents of the abducted girls could receive him with smiling faces rather than with tears.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, quoted Jonathan as speaking during a closed-door meeting he had with parents of the abducted girls, some of the girls who escaped from their abductors and leaders of the community at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Abati said the President told the gathering that his heart was constantly with the traumatized parents, despite that he had not visited the town.
The statement quoted the Jonathan to have said, “Our duty now is to take all relevant steps to recover our girls alive and our primary interest is getting them out as safely as possible. I will not want to say much, but we are doing everything humanly possible to get the girls out.
“Anyone who gives you the impression that we are aloof and that we are not doing what we are supposed to do to get the girls out is not being truthful.
“Our commitment is not just to get the girls out, it is also to rout Boko Haram completely from Nigeria. But we are very, very mindful of the safety of the girls. We want to return them all alive to their parents. If they are killed in any rescue effort, then we have achieved nothing,” President Jonathan told the parents and community leaders at the meeting which was also attended by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State and the Senate President, Senator David Mark.
Responding to appeals from the community leaders for more help in overcoming some of the challenges imposed on Chibok and neighbouring communities by the Boko Haram insurgency, the President said that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Federal Medical Agencies will intensify their efforts to provide them with additional relief aid and assistance.
He also assured them that Chibok and other communities in the three North-Eastern States most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency will be the first beneficiaries of the Victims’ Support Fund, the Presidential Initiative for the North-East, the Safe Schools Initiative and other developmental programmes which the Federal Government is evolving to address the damage, losses, setbacks, economic and social dislocations occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency.
“This not the time for talking much. This is the time for action. We will get to the time that we will tell stories. We will get to the time that we will celebrate and I assure you that, by God’s grace, that time will come soon.”
“We solicit your maximum cooperation. Let us work together. Evil can never overcome good. We will surely overcome Boko Haram,” he told them.
In his remarks at the meeting, Governor Shettima called for more sobriety, reflection and unity of purpose in the fight against terrorism in the country.
He pledged that his state will give President Jonathan the fullest possible support for his efforts to address the problems caused by terrorism and the Boko Haram insurgency.