Special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on media and publicity, Reuben Abati, has said that reports of a planned visit by President Jonathan to Chibok, Borno State was false and that at no time did the presidency announce such plans.
Chibok is the town from where over 200 school girls were kidnapped over a month ago and after strong criticisms about the delayed visit of the President to the area, the media, both local and international, reported on Thursday that Jonathan would be visiting the town Friday.
Contrary to the denial by the presidency, however, competent sources in government insist that there was, indeed, a plan by Jonathan to pay an unannounced visit to Chibok and that it was called off when a yet to be identified presidential aide leaked the news to an international media organization.
Jonathan, it was gathered actually planned to visit Chibok unannounced before proceeding on a visit to France but the leak forced his handlers to cancel the trip for security reasons. By the leak, it was reasoned, the President’s safety had been compromised.
But the presidency continues to officially deny that there was ever a plan by Jonathan to visit the city which has been suddenly catapulted to the world stage because of the girls’ kidnap.
On Thursday, the director general of the National Orientation Agency, and coordinator of National Information Center, Mike Omeri, expressed shock at the news and decried what he said is the ongoing “misinformation” being peddled both locally and internationally to create tension and panic among the population.
“I am not sure of the report and its sources. As coordinator of the National information Center, I don’t have information; therefore I doubt its authenticity,” said Omeri of the visit.
“Since this incident started, lots of misinformation has been going on both local and international. And Nigerians are out there who are not part of what is happening at home are feeling agitated and worried. We have so many of such stories even in some of our local newspapers that are not true,” he said concernedly.
However, media spokesman for the Presidency waited till Friday before making any attempt to correct the misinformation.
“Every trip by the President is usually pre-announced. The Presidency did not at any time announce a trip to Chibok today. Ignore rumours. The statement issued by my office yesterday indicated very clearly that the President is scheduled to travel to Paris today. It is therefore wrong and malicious to allege that a non-existent trip has been cancelled,” he tweeted at noon.
President Jonathan travelled to Paris, France, today to participate in a summit convened by President Francois Hollande to discuss fresh strategies for dealing with the security threat posed by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in West and Central Africa.
President Jonathan will be joined at the summit by heads of state of Benin Republic, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
It is also expected that Britain, the United States of America and the European Union will be represented at the talks which will give special attention to the coordination and intensification of efforts to curtail the destabilizing activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighbouring countries in the wake of the recent abduction of college girls from Chibok.
President Jonathan was accompanied to Paris by the minister of Defence, Aliyu Gusau, a retired lieutenant general, the national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel, as well as other principal aides and advisers.
They are expected to return to Abuja at the conclusion of the summit on Saturday.