Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, says the fact that the Chibok schoolgirls were yet to be rescued should not be a yardstick to write off the achievements of government.
Speaking on ‘Nigeria at 56: Recursive, Resilient, Rising’, a Channels Television live Independence programme, Mohammed said the current administration remained committed to rescuing the girls.
He said no group, local or international, could claim to have more stake or to be more committed to the quest than the government.
Mohammed added that the issue of the rescue of the girls was a humanitarian one that everyone or group should be “passionate but rational about”.
He waved aside the position of some critics, emphasising that government had robust counter terrorism policy and had recorded significance success in fighting Boko Haram in the north-east.
Mohammed 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.
He recalled that the Buhari administration came on board 410 days after the abduction, and alleged that the previous government had no clue to rescue the captives.
Mohammed said in all cases of abduction, especially by insurgents, 24 hours was critical to ensuring prompt rescue, adding that the government in power then did not utilise the intelligence then.
He added that current administration had thrice established links with Boko Haram for the exchange of the abducted girls with arrested members of the group.
He explained that on each occasion, the efforts were thwarted by the link with the insurgents, fresh demands by Boko Haram or division in the camp of the group.
Mohammed 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.”
Oby Ezekwesili, one of the leaders of the BBOG, who was also on the programme, also reiterated the position of the minister that 24 hours was critical to ensuring success or failure in cases of abduction.
She admitted that the past administration failed in that regard, but expressed disappointment that more than 900 days after the girls’ abduction, there was no tangible evidence or convincing plans by government on their release.
Ezekwesili said the group resumed its agitation with vigour to canvass citizens engagement in the release of the girls and ensure that government did not stay away from the parents of the girls.
She underscored the need for government to carry along the group in its rescue efforts and be consistent in its messages and briefings.