The Federal Government is to send some members of the Chibok community to neighbouring Cameroon, to verify whether a female suicide bomber arrested on Friday, is one of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.
This information is contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday by Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The statement said already the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, and the Nigerian high commissioner in Cameroon had swung into action and were receiving a lot of cooperation from the Cameroonian authorities.
“It has been confirmed that one of two girls is claiming to be among the girls stolen from Chibok on April 14, last year, although doubts have creeped into the claim following new information from Cameroon that the two girls are aged about 10 years,’’ it stated.
According to the statement, one of the two is also believed to be heavily drugged and therefore not in full control of her senses.
It said that the Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Cameroon, Hadiza Mustapha, confirmed that the arrested girls might be brought to the Cameroonian capital, Younde, by Monday, at which point the High Commission would seek permission to meet with them.
The statement said that the Murtala Mohammed Foundation had offered to cooperate with federal government in sponsoring two parents from Chibok, who were selected to embark on the trip to Cameroon.
“The two are Yakubu Nkeki, Chairman of the Parents of the Abducted Girls from Chibok association, and Yana Galang, the group’s women leader.
“The Nigerian High Commission will receive the two and will facilitate their access to the two girls once permission to meet and verify their identity is obtained from the Cameroonian authorities,’’ the statement added.
About 250 Chibok schoolgirls were reported to have been stolen by members of the Boko Haram terror sect at the Chibok Government Secondary School in Borno about two years ago.
About 51 of the affected schoolgirls were also reported to have escaped from their abductors, who were transporting them to unknown destinations, on the fateful day of their abduction.
Meanwhile, reacting to the arrest of the arrested girl in Cameroon, the BringBackOurGirls movement urged the government to “adopt and utilise our citizens-developed tool the Verification, Authentication, and Reunification System (VARS) designed by our movement for such scenarios as these.
“This tool was accepted by the federal government on 8 July 2015 during our meeting with the president, but has not been deployed.
“Likewise, the Missing Persons Register which would have been useful in tracking this young victim in order to commence her rehabilitation, reunification, and reintegration process with her family and community.”
In a joint statement by three of its leaders, Aisha Yesufu, Oby Ezekwesili and Hadiza Bala Usman, the group said, “We received news yesterday Friday 25 March, of an arrested girl-child suicide bomber in Cameroon who identified herself as one of our abducted Chibok girls.
“We are presently unable to respond to this news conclusively until we have facts from the Nigerian government; from whom we requested and have eagerly been awaiting official information on the matter.
In the interim however, our thoughts are as follows:
i. The claim by the young woman that she is a Chibok girl should reawaken the Nigerian government to the zeal and commitment necessary for ensuring that they are rescued and brought back;
ii. This development suggests that we now have a possible source of credible intelligence as to what transpired, where the others are, and other leads required to facilitate their rescue.
2. Regardless of whether she is one of our Chibok girls or not, our thoughts and sentiments remain the same:
i. using children, girls who should be in school (or any humans at all) as suicide bombers is not only tragic and cruel, it is completely reprehensible and we denounce it;
ii. these children suicide bomber are themselves victims, and must be seen and treated as such;
iii. we all must hasten to free all those in captivity. For as long as they are with the monsters, we all are ourselves unsafe and equally in captivity;
iv. a few weeks ago, a girl suicide bomber did not detonate her device at an IDP camp because she knew her family was most likely in that camp, and she could not kill them.
It is important to send out messages that counter the programming of the terrorists. This may help in empowering these victims from detonating the explosives and accessing help;
v. this particular experience highlights the importance of building not only a regional coalition among neighbouring countries to counter terror, but a global one.
3. The Nigerian government as a matter of urgency, needs to swiftly act to ascertain the facts of this matter and make them public. It is getting to 24 hours since the news broke.
We need to know her name and identity, her parents’ names, where she is from, possibly extract DNA samples for quick testing and matching, etc.
4. This should be a wakeup call to the Nigerian government to adopt and utilise our citizens-developed tool the Verification, Authentication, and Reunification System (VARS) designed by our movement for such scenarios as these. This tool was accepted by the federal government on 8 July 2015 during our meeting with the president, but has not been deployed.
Likewise, the Missing Persons Register which would have been useful in tracking this young victim in order to commence her rehabilitation, reunification, and reintegration process with her family and community.
We are eagerly awaiting.