Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday cautioned against cynicism and hopelessness about the recovery of the 217 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram.
According to him, their recovery is uppermost in the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He spoke at a one-day Roundtable on Vulnerable People in Insurgency and other conflicts in Nigeria, organised by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
He said: “At any security council meeting that I have attended, the President in particular has always been concerned about the question of Chibok girls in particular. Of course it comes out of ensuring that apart from the international importance attached to it, he reflects on the abduction as if any of the girls is one of his own”.
National Security Adviser Maj.-Gen. Babagana Moguno also said: “Government is also committed to locating the whereabouts of the Chibok girls with a view to rescuing them. The issue has been at the top of the agenda during national council meetings. Moreover, the security agencies have stepped up their search and rescue activities. For instance, in the last one month over 3000 hostages have been rescued by the armed forces in their counter-insurgency operations in the North East,” he said.
Others at the event include Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd), the Executive Secretary, Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC), Air Commodore Yusuf Anas (rtd), representatives of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Army Staff (COAS), and Ambassadors of US, UK and France among others.
Describing as significant the day set aside to mark the anniversary of the kidnap of 217 Chibok girls in Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists, Vice President Osinbajo said: “It brings to fore some critical issues on the handling of the plight of vulnerable people notably the abduction of Chibok girls and the killings of Buni Yadi boys as well as the recent kidnap of three girls in Ikorodu, Lagos in a non-confict area”.
Osinbajo expressed government’s appreciation to local NGOs, CSOs and international partners and sought their continued collaboration and assistance in further addressing issues around the wellbeing of victims and the task of rebuilding the North East areas affected by insurgency.
According to him: “Interconnectivity of many issues like poverty, corruption and lack of education exposes the fact of vulnerability especially of women and girls in our society”, emphasizing that “the question of poverty and how poverty generally as an overarching issue exposes state system and institutions of state and make them impossible to solve most problems without addressing the fundamental questions first.
“There is a sense in which we must pay attention to how we design government programmes, how we plan budgets, so that we take into account the great poverty of our people”, he said.
He said that is why the Federal Government voted N500 billion in this year’s budget for five different social intervention programmes including conditional cash transfer to the poorest.
Osinbajo said the present level of systemic corruption in the country has made it difficult to deliver service to the people because funds meant for infrastructure and social upliftment of the people are diverted.
He said the society has to deal with the corruption saying “I believe we must deal with corruption, it is at the heart of what has gone wrong in this society. We must deal with not only individuals, but with corruption in a systemic fashion”, he said.
At the Roundtable, one of the female survivors of the Buni Yadi attack in Yobe State, Fatima Alhassan, also spoke about what happened the day Boko Haram attacked the school.
Minister of the Environment and Moderator of the programme, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, said: “It will never be enough until the girls come back. As a mother of four, I am hopeful that the girls will be rescued.”
The NSA added that the purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the plight of the most vulnerable citizens, devise preventive measures to avoid conflicts and find ways to mitigate the suffering of victims during and after conflicts.
Monguno was represented by the Special Adviser on Economic Intelligence (ONSA), Mr. Remi Oyewunmi, who added: “No other issue in Nigeria’s recent history has exposed the country to the international spotlight as the abduction of the Chibok girls, prompting righteous indignation across the world”.
He said there is massive increase in the use of children as suicide bombers by the Boko Haram terrorists.
“Like the rest of the world, the most vulnerable people during conflicts in Nigeria are usually women and children as exemplified by their preponderance among the teeming mass of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), particularly in the North East, victimes of the Boko Haram insurgency. According to reports by security agencies, there has been an increase in the use of children as suicide bombers.”