The federal government has warned former President Goodluck Jonathan not to scuttle on-going effort to negotiate the release of the abducted Chibok girls by unnecessary finger-pointing over his administration’s handling of the issue.
The government said Jonathan’s blame game over the issue of the abducted Chibok girls, is an “unnecessary distraction” from ongoing efforts at securing the release of the girls whose captivity in the hands of the Boko Haram will soon hit three years.
This warning came on the heels of the former President’s denial of a report by UK-based newspapers – The Observer and The Guardian – which claimed that Jonathan refused an offer of assistance by the British government to help rescue the kidnapped Chibok girls.
Reacting to Jonathan’s denial, Lai Mohammed stated on Monday that the ex-President has the right to defend his administration, but should not blame anybody for his woes.
“He (Jonathan) should not engage in finger-pointing by saying, in a statement, that ‘some people who have obviously been playing politics with the issue of the Chibok girls will stop at nothing to further their interest’,” the Minister said.
He added that if anyone ever played politics with the issue of the Chibok girls, “it was the Administration under whose watch the girls were abducted.”
Mohammed referred to a statement released in 2014 by the All ProgressivesCongress, APC, then in the opposition, alerting Nigerians that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was using the Boko Haram insurgency and the Kidnap of the Chibok girls, as a tool to cling to power by 2015.
“Two-and-a-half years after that statement, we have been vindicated by the report that claimed President Jonathan rebuffed an attempt by the British government to help rescue the girls,” he stated.
“We hope the former President will now refrain from stoking further controversy over the lingering abduction issue and allow the government of the day to focus on its ongoing negotiations to secure the release of the Chibok girls,” Lai Mohammed concluded.
The report by the UK-based newspapers was published on Sunday and made some damning indictments of the Jonathan-administration for poorly handling the issue of the Chibok girls.
“The girls were located in the first few weeks of the RAF mission. We offered to rescue them, but the Nigerian government declined,” the report quoted a source as saying.
It also stated that the Nigerian government at the time accepted aid packages and assistance from Western countries, such as France, the United States and the United Kingdom in locating the girls, but dismissed offers for actions to be taken by these countries to rescue the girls, as then President Jonathan insisted that “Nigeria’s intelligence and military services must solve the ultimate problem.”
However, in a statement by his media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, former President Jonathan dismissed the report as completely false.
Jonathan said that the international collaboration to rescue the abducted girls involved neigbouring African countries such as Chad and Cameroon and that his administration was so supportive of the efforts that it allowed Western military to conduct reconnaissance flight over the country’s airspace.
Eze stated: “We can confidently say the lies in this report are self-evident. This is because the international press as well as the Nigerian media actively covered the multinational efforts and collaboration which involved some of the major powers deploying their crack intelligence officers to work with our own security operatives, and those of ourneighbours.
“We would wish to recall that this collaboration was made possible following letters personally written by former President Jonathan to (former) President Barack Obama of the United States, President Francois Hollande of France, Mr. David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as well as personal contacts made to the Government of Israel and China, seeking their assistance in the search for the abducted Chibok girls.
“Eze wondered why the ex-President would rebuff an offer to rescue the girls after having written to the Western Leaders for support and assistance.
The Chibok girls were abducted by Boko Haram fighters from their dormitory at Government Secondary School, Chibok, on April 14, 2014, same day as the insurgent group blew up a bus terminal in Abuja, killing more than 80 people.
Some of the girls escaped shortly after they were captured while some others were released following a negotiation with the the insurgents brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, in conjunction with the Swiss Government.
But over 200 of the girls still remain in captivity almost 3 years after.