By Levinus Nwabughiogu & Omezia Ajayi
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja, said the Federal Government would continue to negotiate with Boko Haram on the release of the remaining abducted school girls from Chibok, only if international agencies were involved.
This was as even as he commended the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, in the release of 21 girls last week.
This was in the wake of the Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG, movement, yesterday, dissociating itself from a fund-raising campaign organized by President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughter to empower returnee Chibok girls.
The President, who disclosed this while meeting with Mr. Peter Maurer, ICRC President, at State House, Abuja, urged the Red Cross to sustain humanitarian interest in Nigeria.
He said: “As long as they (Boko Haram) agree to involve international agencies like ICRC, we’ll negotiate with them. We’ve seen the result of recent talks, 21 of the Chibok girls are back.”
President Buhari, who recalled that the girls had been in captivity for over 900 days, said Nigeria’s biggest problem was perhaps the issue of internally displaced persons, IDPs, noting that there were over two million of them, with women and children making up over 60 per cent of the number.
‘’About 60 per cent of the children don’t know their parents, or where they come from. It is weighing heavily on government,’’ the President said.
On rebulding of destroyed infrastructure
On rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure, President Buhari said it was a priority of government, noting that the G7 had equally indicated support which Nigeria heartily welcomed.
“We appreciate all your efforts. I am pleased you recognized that our military is cooperating with civil authorities, and respecting humanitarian issues.
The 21 schoolgirls at the thanksgiving service in Abuja.
‘’It is a difficult time for Nigeria. About 27 of our 36 states couldn’t pay salaries when we came last year, and we are still struggling with that. But we will get out of it,” the President said.
Maurer, the ICRC President, said their operation in the Lake Chad region was the second largest in the world, after Syria, adding that there were nutritional, health, water and sanitation issues in the North-East, in addition to rebuilding of infrastructure.
“We are ready to engage and play supportive role in responding to the crisis in Nigeria. Security is a lot better than it was a year ago, but humanitarian problems are serious, and don’t disappear so quickly,” Maurer said.
The ICRC President also commended Nigeria for granting increased access to detainees, and exchanges with the Armed Forces.
He added: “Detention facilities have improved, there are fewer deaths, and things are better health-wise.”
BBOG dismisses Buhari’s daughter’s fund raising
Meanwhile, the Bring Back Our Girls BBOG movement has dissociated itself from a fund-raising campaign organized by President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughter to empower returnee Chibok girls.
Tagged, Official Inauguration and Signing of Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, on the Chibok Girls Endowment Project”, the ceremony, which took place yesterday in Abuja, was organized by the Peace Corps of Nigeria and the Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative, an organization led by Hadiza Buhari-Bello.
However, in its rebuttal, the BBOG said it was “shocked, perplexed and dumbfounded” that its brand name could be used by people to raise funds without its consent.
It stated: “Following repeated enquiries from the media, we stumbled upon information of an event tagged, “Official Inauguration and Signing of Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) on the Chibok Girls Endowment Project” organised by the “Peace Corps of Nigeria” and “Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative,” with Hadiza Buhari-Bello.
“We are shocked, perplexed and completely dumbfounded to see the bold inscription of our hard-earned name, #BringBackOurGirls, on the event’s backdrop.
‘’We state categorically that we are not party to the said event and have absolutely no information of its origin.
‘’We urge the general public to disregard attempts at linking our movement to this highly suspicious event.
“After 902 days of painstaking advocacy, it is disheartening and unfortunate to suddenly see attempts by external actors to use it for selfish purposes.
‘’We have carefully built our reputation as a well-organized and disciplined global movement that is completely self-funded.
“The deliberate decision to remain funded by sacrificial contributions of members for our very negligible needs, is the reason we are solely a citizens’ movement, and not an NGO.”
‘’ It will be highly injurious to allow it be dragged in the mud at this point. We, therefore, demand an immediate retraction and unreserved apology from the organizers.
“Together with our lawyers, Femi Falana & Co., we are considering a response to this attempt to smear our movement.
‘’We call on the general public and law enforcement agencies to be on the look-out for unscrupulous persons who may already be/are planning similar nefarious acts to deceive the local and international community.”
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By Levinus Nwabughiogu & Omezia Ajayi