The president said his government will not negotiate with Boko Haram to free the kidnapped girls.
An intensive search by the Nigerian military has failed to establish the whereabouts of the more than 200 school girls abducted from Chibok, Borno State, three weeks ago, President Goodluck Jonathan said Sunday, deepening the mystery surrounding the mass kidnapping that has sparked international outrage.
Mr. Jonathan has faced scorching attacks over his administration’s handling of the crisis.
At a televised interview Sunday, his first public remarks to Nigerians on the late night abductions, Mr. Jonathan said security forces have acted on every information available to them and have combed swathes of suspected hideouts of the kidnappers, but found nothing.
“This is trying times for this country, this is trying times for the world,” he said.
“From that day (of the abductions), till today, security personnel have been searching everywhere. All the information that have been volunteered to us, we’ve searched the places. We have used aircraft, helicopters that have the ability to scan what is on the surfaces. And we have scanned.”
Mr. Jonathan said regardless of the futile hunt, his team remained committed to rescuing the girls.
“Wherever this children are, we’ll surely get them out,” he said. “One good thing that I am a bit happy and I believe most Nigerians are happy is that there is no story that they have been hurt, in terms of injured or all that.”
Mr. Jonathan said Nigerians were justified in their anger against his government’s clumsy handling of the abductions. The interview was his seventh presidential media chat usually beamed live on the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA.
The president has come under intense criticism from Nigerians and the international community, for his silence three weeks into the crisis, for the conflicting information churned by officials of his government, and for his administration’s outright failure at rescuing the missing girls.
The girls, at least 230 of them, were taken by armed men at about 11 pm on April 15 from their dormitory as they prepared to write their final certificate examinations. The attack came the same day extremist group, Boko Haram, detonated a car bomb at Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja, killing at least 75 people and injuring more than 100.
A second bomb attack on the same spot occurred last Thursday, killing 19 people. The government blames the group for the two car bombs and the abduction of the girls.
But the kidnapping has increasingly taken a political shade with members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, accusing the others of complicity.
At a meeting Saturday, First Lady Patience Jonathan appeared to blame the Borno State governor’s decision to keep the Chibok School open, for the attack. Mrs. Jonathan said she will lead a protest to the governor’s office if the girls were not found by Sunday.
The comments have angered several groups already critical of the government’s response to the incident. The groups say what was key was finding the girls and not who took them.
“We wish to categorically say that the rescue and return of these girls is what is material at this point in time and not a blame game and dodging of responsibility,” said Hadiza Bala Usman, the coordinator of the BringBackOurGirls, a group that has led daily protests in Abuja since last week, asking for the girls’ release.
“We take exception to anyone trying to play politics with the lives of over 200 young girl. Whomsoever is the abductee of these girls is not the primary issue right now, it’s the fact that 20 days after the abduction of over 200 young girls, the Federal Government of Nigeria is yet to rescue any one of them or provide any concrete information on the status of the rescue operation,” she said.
No Negotiations with Boko Haram
Mr. Jonathan said the Nigerian government is not negotiating with the Boko Haram to free the girls.
He said his government could not negotiate with the insurgent group as they, or anyone else, have not claimed responsibility for the kidnap of the girls.
“You can’t negotiate with somebody you don’t know,” he said during a televised media chat Sunday.
The president said he was working with the Borno government and security agencies to ensure that the girls were found. He assured that the missing girls’ case would not be similar to that of the Malaysian passenger plane that recently got missing.
“These girls cannot be another case similar to that (missing Malaysian plane)”, the president said.
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