Chibok girls: Police deny BBOG protesters access to Aso Villa … Ezekwesili says blockade reminds of military era

By The Citizen

…Senate summons NSA, Service Chiefs
…Reps demand rescue date
The Coordinator of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement, Oby Ezekwesili, has described the prevention of the group from accessing the presidential villa as a reminder of the‎ military era.

Addressing journalists shortly after the police stopped the protesters, Ezekwesili said the presidency had been notified of its procession to the villa gate, where the citizen movement was to deliver a message to the government.

She expressed surprise that the group was stopped, saying BBOG would deliver its message‎ on the road notwithstanding the barricade.

The campaigners held a commemorative session on the busy secretariat road, with no government representative to receive them.

‎Ezekwesili advised â€Žthe government not to consider granting amnesty to Boko Haram.

‎On the new video of the Chibok girls, the former minister of education urged the government to act fast now that there is proof that they are alive.

Earlier, ‎in a statement delivered by Aisha Yesufu, strategic leader of the movement, the group reminded President Muhammadu Buhari of his promise to rescue the girls on May 29, 2015.

'We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage . . . This government will do all it can to rescue them alive,' the president was quoted to have said.

Members of the group were stonewalled by police officers on their way to the presidential villa‎.

They held the two-year commemorative session for the missing girls‎ on the road, causing traffic congestion.

The protesters had set out from the Unity Fountain in Abuja around 10:30am, but met a wall of police officers on the road leading to the villa.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday summoned the National Security Adviser and all the service chiefs to brief it at a closed session on their efforts so far to recover the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

Also, the House of Representatives on Thursday asked the Federal Government to set a target for security agencies to rescue the 219 Chibok schoolgirls held in captivity by Boko Haram insurgents.

The Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, gave the position of the House after an exhaustive debate on a motion to mark the second anniversary of the abduction of the girls.

The red chamber did not, however, give any date on when the service chiefs would appear before it but observed a one-minute silence in honour of parents of the abducted girls that had died.

The senators took the decision following the deliberation on a motion moved by the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye, tagged, 'The Abduction of Chibok School Girls- Two years after.'

Melaye lamented the plight of the girls and their parents, saying the Federal Government could not be said to have succeeded until the girls were rescued.

He said, 'We cannot succeed as a government until those girls are released. Getting back the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls into the society is important and a must for our security agencies.

'The abduction of over 200 girls by Boko Haram has wrongly affected us as a people as could be seen in the international condemnation of the government's slow reaction to this unprecedented outrage committed against Nigerian womanhood.

'Never before has such criminal viciousness been perpetrated on Nigerian womanhood.'

Other senators who supported the motion called on the Federal Government to go beyond the yearly ritual of celebrating the anniversary of the abduction.

They called on the government to explore every available avenue to ensure that the girls were rescued.

The Senate also commended the BringBackOurGirls group for what they described as its doggedness and consistency in the campaign for the release of the girls.

The upper chamber which said it empathised with parents of the girls, also charged security agencies to ensure the girls' freedom, just as it urged the Borno State Government to rebuild the Chibok Secondary School in the interest of students in the community.

Adopting the prayers of the motion, the Senate mandated security agencies to do everything possible to ensure the release of the girls.

The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, however, introduced humour into the entire scenario by accusing the sponsor of the motion, Melaye, of using the campaign for the release of the Chibok girls to win election to the Senate.

Akpabio said, 'I wonder why those who led protests against the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan to rescue the girls have suddenly kept mum.

'I remember in 2014, Dino Melaye used to wear a T-shirt and he led the protest to ensure that the abducted schoolgirls were released. He was always at the National Fountain to lead a protest against the government.

'He eventually cashed in on it and won elections. Other people in the APC did the same thing.'

On its part, the House of Representatives resolved to send a 'high-powered delegation' to Chibok to commiserate with the parents and relatives of the girls as a way of passing the message that the legislature shared in their pains.

The motion on 'The Need to Intensify the Search and Rescue of the Chibok School Girls', was moved by the All Progressives Congress member representing Damboa/Chibok Federal Constituency of Borno State, Mrs. Asabe Bashir.

Dogara stated that searching for the girls had reached a point where government must set a target on when to rescue the girls to underscore the urgency of the situation.

'A time has come for us as an institution to insist that the executive should set targets for the rescue of the girls.

'We have to set targets so that we don't lose the sense of urgency that is required to free the girls,' Dogara added.

He particularly commended members of the BBOG campaigners for keeping the fate of the girls on the front burner.

'We must also commend the security forces of our country, who have been toiling day and night, searching for these girls,' he said.

While moving her motion in an emotion-laden voice, Bahir said a dark cloud had enveloped the world of the parents of the girls, two years on, without a word of assurance on how they would re-connect with their loved ones.

'The plea is that the Federal Government should intensify the search for these girls.

'For two years, their whereabouts are unknown,' she reminded the House.

The Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Relations, Nnena Ukeje, condemned the cowardly acts of the Boko Haram insurgents, whom she said employed unconventional methods of fighting to attack soft targets.

'Boko Haram should release the girls; they are innocent. They should come out like men and fight our armed forces in open battles. Kidnapping, raping girls and women are not the rights of men,' the Peoples Democratic Party's legislator from Abia State added.

The Deputy House Minority Whip and member of the PDP from Gombe State, Binta Maigeri, said her heart was heavy for the girls and their parents because she could not bear the horror of not knowing the whereabouts of her children for one night, let alone for '730 nights.'

Another APC lawmaker from Bauchi State, Mr. Mohammed Sani-Abdu, noted that the Chibok girls' abduction exposed Nigeria's lack of seriousness as a country on how it treated the welfare, security and safety of its citizenry.

'The Chibok incident is a major embarrassment for us and it portrays us as an unserious people.

'The girls and their parents are innocent people, who do not deserve the torture and trauma they have been made to face,' Sani-Abdu stated.

But, beyond Nigeria failing to rise to the occasion, the lawmaker also blamed the failure to rescue the girls on the claim that Western countries were unwilling to assist Nigeria.

Sani-Abdu observed that the US, in particular, and Israel, had the requisite technologies to help Nigeria in securing the release of the girls but were not responding positively enough in spite of being Nigeria's friends.

'What is the use of all the bilateral treaties and other understanding that we have with these countries if they cannot assist us in situations like this?' he asked.

But another APC member from Monguno, in Borno State, Mr. Mohammed Monguno, informed the House that the girls were already 'scattered' in various locations in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Monguno used to be one of the heaviest-hit towns in Borno State by Boko Haram before it was liberated by the Nigerian army.

The lawmaker suggested that Nigeria should use the avenue of the Chad-Basin Commission to seek the cooperation of neighbouring countries to intensify the search efforts.

'Local intelligence has shown that these girls are no longer kept in one place', Monguno said. - Additional reports The Cable, Punch.