Recent comments by former president Olusegun Obasanjo that some of the schoolgirls abducted at Government Secondary School, Chibok may never reunite with their families again, may have left many of the parents heartbroken and more depressed, it was gathered Saturday.
Obasanjo had claimed he was in contact with the insurgents, saying that some of the abducted girls may not be reunited with their families again and that some may have already become pregnant.
This is as the Presidential Fact-finding Committee on the Abduction of the Chibok Schoolgirls declared that it had concluded its work and the report was ready to submission to the President.
One of the parents of the abducted schoolgirls, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Gradually we are made to come to terms with the reality that some of the girls may have already died and some others have already been impregnated.
“We knew it will come to this, but we were just being optimistic that this would never happen and we have prayed against it happening.
“But how else do you expect these girls to be in the bush that they were never used to and all of them will survive it even with no good medical facility? It was expected that some of them would have even been impregnated as the sect members were notorious for raping of women and having these young girls with them for two months now would not have changed the story.”
Corroborating the despondent mood in the community, the chairman of Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, Baana Lawan, yesterday said he was yet to come to terms with the news that some of the over 200 girls abducted on April 14 may not be found again as claimed by Obasanjo.
Describing Obasanjos’s comments as nothing but a shot at the heart for many of the parents, who were still clinging to the hope that their daughters would one day be found, Lawan said the news from the former leader would only dampen their spirits and further traumatise them.
“When I heard the news I was so shocked and felt so bad that this could happen to some of these girls who were innocent and have not done anything to merit this,” he said.
Also lamenting that the news left them with the fears that even the girls surviving their captivity may have contracted sexually transmitted diseases, he blamed the federal government for having tarried this long in its bid to rescue them.
According to him, the hopes that were raised with the interest of some foreign governments in the matter have started to wane, as it was becoming evident that “everyone is in a dilemma as to what to do.”
But the acting Borno State Commissioner for Information, Dr. Mohammed Bulama, said, “The BOSG (Borno State Government) is not privy to this information and we have no means of verifying it. However, we hope it is not true. We continue to keep faith that all our girls will safely return to their parents sooner than later.
“We urge the FGN and the security agents to do even more to secure the release of the girls and to curtail the murderous activities of Boko Haram. On our part, we are ready and willing to fully cooperate and work with them and all other stakeholders.”
In a related development, parents in Borno State whose children should have returned to school have expressed concern about the prevailing atmosphere of uncertainty in the state that has seen public schools closed for three months.
According to some of the parents, who spoke on condition of anonymity to THISDAY, it was sad that their wards had been doing nothing for so long and to make matters worse “we do not know when they will be asked to return to school.”
Attempts to get the state government to comment on this proved abortive, as calls by our correspondent were unanswered and officials, who responded to text messages sent on their mobile phones, sent terse “no comment” replies.
Perhaps, in an attempt to restore the waning hopes of the rescue of the abducted girls, the Federal Government has assured Nigerians that it was working assiduously for their rescue. The Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, made this disclosure at the graduation ceremony held collectively for 404 retirees drawn from the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Navy at the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre in Oshodi, Lagos.
Meanwhile, the report of the Presidential Fact-finding Committee on the Abduction of the Chibok Schoolgirls is ready. The report, expected to be submitted by the committee soon, according to a member of the committee who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to speak, would clear the air on the actual number of the abducted girls as well as unravel the reason why the Government Secondary School Chibok was in session when other schools were closed.
The Committee, it would be recalled, had held consultations and interactions with a broad spectrum of stakeholders and credible sources relevant to its terms of reference. Among those with whom it had interfaced were the Shehu of Borno, military commanders, heads of paramilitary formations, the state Commissioner of Police, the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Chibok and state Director of the Department of State Services.
It also had intensive engagement with the principal, vice principals (administration and academic) of Government Secondary School, Chibok, where the mass abduction took place as well as the matrons of the hostels, head cook, and security guards on duty on the day of the incident.
The Committee had, in addition, interacted with the Borno State Commissioner for Education, the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima; Borno Elders Forum, the District Head of Chibok, and representatives of the Chibok communities, including the Local Government chairman.
In a related development, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal yesterday pleaded with the Boko Haram terrorists to sheath their sword and embrace peace, as Muslims all over the world prepare for the Ramadan fasting.
Tambuwwal also appealed to the Federal Government not to shut its doors against dialogue with the terrorists group, stressing that the House of Representatives was ready to support any effort aimed at bringing about peace in the country.
He was speaking at the opening of the National Conference on Practical Steps in Uniting the Nigerian Muslim Ummah and the pre-Ramadan meeting of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI ) which held in Kaduna.
He noted that “one of the most longstanding dispute in the world today is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which they still find their ways to dialogue and discuss how best to address their issues.”
According to him, “we, including the insurgents, most of them that are probably identified are Nigerians. First and foremost, we are not fighting war with another country; it is an internal war that we are facing. Therefore, dialogue is necessary.
“I have said this before in about two, three years back and I am still maintaining my ground, we need to dialogue and discuss and ensure that we bring back those that can be brought back.”
The speaker maintained that “If they (Boko Haram) have any issue that can be addressed by the government, those issues should be looked into with the possibility of being attended to and for those of them that feel all they need is to take up arms against the rest of us, we (will) all face them squarely.”
He, however, called on Nigerians to unite irrespective of their religious differences for the survival of the country, stressing that religion can only be practised in a peaceful atmosphere.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the President General of JNI and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III urged Nigerian leaders at all levels to fear God and ensure justice and equity.
According to the Sultan, it is the absence of fair play and equity in running the affairs of human being that has always been responsible for the level of insecurity in any country.
He noted that no country in the world can progress in the absence of peace and called on Nigerians to eschew bitterness and embrace peace and tolerance, and urged Muslims to desist from acts that will tarnish the image of the Muslim Ummah.