MINISTER of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to rescue the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists.
The minister spoke at a live programme on Channel Television on Independence, entitled: “Nigeria at 56: Recursive, resilient, rising.”
Alhaji Mohammed said no group, local or international, could claim to have more stake or to be more committed to the rescue of the girls than the Federal Government.
He added that the issue of the rescue of the girls was a humanitarian one that everyone or group should be “passionate but rational about.”
The minister said contrary to the position of some critics, government had robust counter- terrorism policy and had recorded significant success in fighting Boko Haram in the North-East.
He noted that the fact that the Chibok girls were yet to be rescued should not be a yardstick to write off the achievements of government in decimating Boko Haram.
Alhaji Mohammed recalled that upon assumption of Muhammadu Buhari -led administration, many parts of the North-East were under the control of Boko Haram and were not safe and accessible.
The minister said the situation was not the same today, as no part of the North East region was under the control of the group.
He reiterated that Boko Haram had been decimated and government was working daily to ensure the release of the abducted girls.
“The North-East is free now, students are returning to schools, all the towns and communities hitherto under the control of the terrorists have been liberated and those who fled their homes are gradually returning,” he said.
The minister also recalled that when the Buhari -led administration assumed power, it was 410 days after the Chibok girls were abducted without any clue to their rescue by the previous government.
He noted that in all cases of abduction, especially by terrorists, 24 hours was critical to ensuring prompt rescue, adding that the government in power then did not utilise the intelligence at that time.
The minister said the current administration had, on three occasions, established links with Boko Haram for the exchange of the abducted girls with the arrested members of the terrorist group.
He said on each occasion, the efforts were thwarted by either the link with the terrorist, fresh demands by Boko Haram or division in the camp of the terrorist group.
Mohammed said government had not foreclosed negotiation with the group on the release of the girls but it wanted to ensure that the link were genuine and credible.
He said government appreciated the efforts of the “Bring Back Our Girls” (BBOG) group but noted that “the administration is as concerned as they are and ready to work with them in ensuring the release of the girls.”
Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, one of the leaders of the BBOG reiterated the position of the minister that 24 hours was critical to ensuring success or failure in cases of abduction by terrorists, adding that the past administration failed in that regard.
Ezekwesili, however, said the BBOG group was disappointed that more than 900 days after the girls’ abduction, there was no tangible evidence or convincing plans by government on their release.