Kevwe Ebireri, Abuja
President Goodluck Jonathan has assured Nigerians that his government will continue to explore all possibilities to ensure the safe return of the over 200 school girls kidnapped on April 14, 2014 from the Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State.
Jonathan who was speaking on Sunday at the sixth Presidential media chat monitored in Abuja said since the incident, security personnel have continued to comb the state in search of the location where the girls are being held, but that so far there is still no clue as to their whereabouts, adding that no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, even though suspicion has fallen on the Boko Haram sect.
He noted, however, that it is comforting that no report has emerged saying the girls have been harmed, even though they are alleged to have been married out to members of the banned insurgency group.
He requested maximum cooperation of the parents and guardians of the girls to determine the exact number of the girls and their identities.
The President debunked reports that government was negotiating with the kidnappers, stressing that it was impossible to negotiate with “someone you don’t know”.
Responding to the question of extension of the state of emergency declared in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, the President said consultations are still ongoing with various stakeholders and that if the consensus is that it should be extended, it would.
“We are consulting with the security and relevant stakeholders and where we need to extend, we will extend it, because I believe that we are succeeding,” he said, reasoning that without a state of emergency, the security operatives deployed to the area would be so frustrated as they would not even be able to make arrests based on intelligence reports without a warrant.
President Jonathan said further that reports alleging that helicopters drop weapons and food supplies for Boko Haram terrorists hiding in various forests in Borno State are mere politically motivated rumours, as there are no concrete facts to back the claim.
“Nobody has shown us that this is a clip of these helicopters and of course you hear people ask. “Let us see the clips of these helicopters. Describe the exact place where these supplies are being dropped.” I’m not ruling it out, but we have heard there are clips and we have not verified,” he said.
Reacting to questions about corruption, especially the missing $20 billion oil money exposed by the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the President insinuated that the claim was not only false but ridiculous and downright impossible.
“Almost all regimes, there’s always the story of missing oil money. Is it possible for anybody to steal $20 billion and people would not know? Where will you hide $20 billion? Nobody should deceive anybody. If anybody should steal $20 billion, this country will know,” Jonathan said.
Sanusi had initially said that about $50 billion oil money was stolen over a period of 18 months, more than the total aids to Africa for the period, before changing the figure to $12 billion and then $20 billion.
President Jonathan, referring to the inconsistent figures, mockingly said that if the suspended governor had remained in office, he would have again given a new figure.
“I don’t even know which figure to believe”, the President said but added that audit into the matter was still ongoing.
On the issue of N10 billion used by the minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to hire private jets for her personal use, President Jonathan spared no effort to defend the minister whom many have accused of high-handedness, corruption and disregard to the rule of law.
He said the ministry is the only one permitted to have an aircraft and that where it is faulty, it has every right to hire one for its use, adding also that he was not aware that Alison-Madueke had gone to court to stop investigation by the House of Representatives into the matter.
Jonathan said the minister has already spent over 200 working days appearing before the parliament for various probes and that no country can progress when a minister spends about 25 per cent of her office time appearing before panels, adding that it was all political.
“Whether you like it or not, the Parliament is made up of politicians and they play politics with whatever they have and if you have been following the issues in Parliament, especially the House of Reps, you would see that its more of politics than work,” he said.
On the issue of unemployment, the President said it was not in the place of government to provide employment for everybody and that his government is working to see how it can reduce the size of its workforce that gulps a large percentage the yearly budget.
He said if the government were to employ more hands, it would be unable to carry out any infrastructural work, stressing that its duty was to encourage the private sector to create jobs by providing the enabling environment so that it can channel its energies towards development.
The President also appealed to Nigerians residing within the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to bear with the government over the seeming lock down of the city as part of strict security measures put place to host the World Economic Forum scheduled to hold between May 7- May 9, 2014.
The federal government on Friday announced that during the three days period, all government offices and schools in the city, except those on essential services, are to be closed. Private organisations were also advised to do same to ease movement.
The sixth edition of the presidential media chat which commenced at 7.00 pm and ended at 8:45pm, was anchored by Cyril Stober of the Nigerian Television Authority and had three other panelists -Jide Ajani of Vanguard Newspapers, Bashir Abdullahi, Editor BBC Abuja bureau and Funke Fadugba of Raypower radio station.