There were angry reactions on Monday after President Muhammadu Buhari shunned the #BringBackOurGirls group and the parents of the Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted by the Boko Haram sect 861 days ago.
The BBOG and the some parents of the girls had assembled at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja, at 10am from where they marched towards the Presidential Villa.
Together with hundreds of sympathisers, who joined them on the way, the protesters had moved towards the President’s office, demanding concrete actions from the Federal Government to save the girls.
But the movement of the protesters was cut short by armed riot policemen who blocked the access road to the seat of power.
The protesters, who arrived at the junction to the Presidential Villa at 11.07am, were prevented from going inside by policemen who told them that they had no clearance to see the President.
The protesters, led by the Co-convener, BBOG, Oby Ezekwesili, later set up a camp on the access road to the President’s office.
In response to Ezekwesiki’s query about the blockade, the officer in charge of the police team, CSP Obasi Chuks, said he could not allow the protesters to proceed to Aso Villa because they did not have an official clearance.
Neither Buhari nor any of his aides came out to address the protesters for more than three hours that they sat on the access road to the villa.
BBOG urges military action, negotiation
The BBOG in a statement read to journalists by its Strategic Committee Chairman, Aisha Yesufu, said the Federal Government must rescue the 219 Chibok schoolgirls either through a military operation or negotiation with Boko Haram or a combination of both.
It observed that each option had risks, but added that the nation had the capability to assess the risks and adopt the best solution to rescue the girls.
“Three options are available for the rescue of our #ChibokGirls – the use of military force, negotiation for their release or a combination of both. We acknowledge that each option comes with inherent risks, but we also understand that Nigeria has the capability to assess and adopt the best solution,” the coalition stated.
The campaigners said they would no longer entertain any delay in the rescue of the girls.
The group said, “When the proof of live video (released by the CNN on April 14, 2016) was dismissed on the premise that the authenticity of the source could not be ascertained, we advised that every source of intelligence must be treated as actionable. This however did not happen.
“The return of our #ChibokGirl, Amina Ali, on May 18, 2016, her revelations and details of the state of our girls provided a source of first-person intelligence which should have inspired a decisive action. Again, this did not materialise.
“The release of the plea-for-rescue video on August 14 and its corroboration of Amina’s revelations must now be the final part of the decision-making requirements.”
The coalition demanded that the President addressed Nigerians on his rescue plan, stressing that he should constitute a #ChibokGirls Rescue Operation Monitoring Team made up of the representatives of the Federal Government, parents of the Chibok girls, Chibok community and #BringBackOurGirls group, to monitor the President’s sustained action towards rescuing the girls.
The group also requested Buhari to preside over national emergency in the North-East conference to find a cohesive response plan to the humanitarian crisis there.
The BBOG said Buhari should direct the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to set up a special desk with the responsibility for fast-tracking the trials of the arms procurement funds fraud.
It also demanded that the Chief Justice of Nigeria prioritised the trials of all counter-insurgency related corruption cases.
It rejected the excuse by Buhari that the government did not know which Boko Haram faction to negotiate with and called on western nations to assist Nigeria.
The BBOG called on President Barack Obama of the United States, Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom, President Francois Hollande of France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to support Nigeria with their military and intelligence assets to rescue the Chibok girls.
“We reject the recurrent excuses by the President that the Federal Government does not know which faction of the splintered terrorist group it should engage in negotiations,” the statement added.
It said, “Our movement shall monitor the response of Mr. President and shall return on a march to the Villa every 72 hours until persuasive actions become evident to all.”
‘I’m not ready to watch another video’
Esther Yakubu, the woman whose daughter, Dorcas, spoke in the latest Boko Haram video, stated that she was not ready to watch another video of the abducted girls, insisting that the government had credible evidence to get them back.
She expressed dissatisfaction with the government over its slow response, stating that the schoolgirls deserved to be freed.
She said, “I will like the government and the world to know that we are ready to receive our girls back in whatever form; we are not happy with the government. Why are they not making efforts to rescue our girls? Is it because we are poor?”
Yakubu stated that since the government claimed that it had defeated Boko Haram, it meant it could negotiate with the group from a position of strength, noting that the war against the insurgents was not over until the girls were rescued.
A BBOG campaigner, Maurine Kabrik, said the President was not a man of the masses as widely believed, noting that he had failed to live up to the expectation of the people.
She stated that the BBOG would continue to demand answers from him about the missing girls.
‘We regret voting for Buhari’
The Chairman, Chibok community in Abuja, Tsambido Abana, said the members of the community worked for Buhari in 2015 and expressed regrets for voting him into power.
He flayed the President for not fulfilling his electoral promise of rescuing the girls, noting that one year after assuming power, Buhari had not rescued the girls and had yet to visit the North-East.
Abana said, “No one has spoken to the family of any of the Chibok girls since the last video was released by the terrorists. We regret our votes. We regret them.
“We were promised that the President would visit the Sambisa Forest after becoming President; we were also told that within two weeks our girls would be rescued.
“But over one year now, there is no tangible action about our girls. The Presidency stated, instead, that it was confused about the insurgents.”
FG keeps mum on protest
Attempts to speak with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, were abortive as his calls rang out. He also did not reply text messages sent to his mobile phone.
Rights groups flay President
Some socio-political groups also berated the government for not granting audience to the protesters.
The President of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, said preventing the campaigners from getting to the Presidential Villa was an indication of the government’s lack of empathy for the families of the kidnapped girls.
He added, “The campaign for the release of the girls is already an international affair. A campaign fully endorsed by the international community for which reason they ought to allow free access in order to continue to show empathy, understanding, determination and resolve to resolve the menace.
“It will be counter-productive to unleash policemen on the protesters because that will expose the government as an intolerant government even if the government means well.”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said the BBOG was no more the darling of the government.
He said “The group should know by now that those who found mileage in what they were doing almost two years ago must see them as a nuisance today since roles have changed.
“Those who knew the whole game among them have moved into the government and secured positions. It would be naive on the part of those remaining there not to know that they are no longer the darlings they were in the past.”
The President of the Campaign for Democracy, Abdul Usman, said, “It’s unfortunate that the government that capitalised on the Chibok girls rescue today will close its doors on the same group that led the advocacy.
“The call on the rescue of Chikok girl is a necessity and the civil society organisations will not give up until they are rescued.”