Abuja – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday promised to launch a new investigation into the April 2014 kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram Islamists, after an emotional meeting with some of the parents.
“I assure you that I go to bed and wake up every day with the Chibok girls on my mind,” Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement from the presidency.
Some 300 parents and sympathisers, many of them crying, had earlier marched through Abuja carrying signs with the faces of the missing girls before being taken in buses for an audience with Buhari at his official residence.
It was the first time the BringBackOurGirls protest group had met Buhari since he declared in December that the extremists were “technically” defeated, despite warnings from security analysts the war was far from over.
“Where is my daughter? I want my daughter back no matter the condition she is in,” Iyana Galan said. “Even if she is dead I want to see her body,” she said, choking back tears.
A total of 276 teenagers were seized from their dormitories at the school in Chibok, in the northeastern state of Borno, on April 14, 2014.
Fifty-seven girls managed to escape soon afterwards but the remaining 219 are still being held and have not been seen since they appeared in a Boko Haram video message released in May, 2014.
The audacious kidnapping generated headlines worldwide and laid bare the inability of Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan to tackle the insurrection.
Buhari told his visitors in Thursday’s closed-door meeting that the country’s National Security Advisor, General Babagana Monguno, would set up a panel to investigate the abductions, according to the presidential statement.
“The investigation will seek to, among other things, unravel the remote and immediate circumstances leading to the kidnap of the girls by Boko Haram terrorists as well the other events, actions and inactions that followed the incident,” the statement said.
Since 2009, at least 17,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram violence and some 2.6 million forced from their homes.
The BringBackOurGirls group has kept up the pressure on the government with regular demonstrations and vigils in the capital.
But former education minister Oby Ezekwesili, who leads the BringBackOurGirls group, said Buhari had told them there was no “reliable intelligence that would enable them to rescue the girls as immediately as we are demanding”.
Buhari said last month he was prepared to negotiate with any “credible” Boko Haram leaders for the girls’ release.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has reportedly called on the country’s National Assembly to impeach Buhari and other ministers over the missing 2016 budget, in a move that the ruling party has dismissed as “comical”.
According to Premium Times, the PDP believed that the original budget had been doctored by the presidency during the period that it went “missing”.
The Senate accused a senior special assistant to Buhari, Ita Enang, of presenting to lawmakers an altered version of the 2016 budget, the report said.
Senate president Bukola Saraki said: “What he [Enang] distributed is different from what was presented by Mr President and we have resolved not to address any version until we receive the version presented by Mr President.”
Uche Secondus, the PDP acting national chairperson, signed a statement to charge the National Assembly to impeach the president for submitting two versions of the 2016 budget.
“[The National Assembly should investigate the] shameful act, including the distortion and banding of figures to accommodate their personal interest and ensure that appropriate sanctions is meted to whoever has a hand in the dubious action that has brought embarrassment to the legislative body,” the PDP was quoted as saying in a statement.
The PDP also called for the resignations of Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, Budget and National Planning Minister Udo Udoma and Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele for their roles in the management of the nation’s economy.
In response to the PDP’s accusations and demands, the All Progressives Congress, however, dismissed the opposition’s call as comical. “It’s confusing and worrisome that the PDP calls for an investigation into the budget issue and at the same time calls for the removal and resignation of the aforementioned,” the APC said. – AFP