The Council of State, made up of former heads of government, on Tuesday held its second meeting in the year and came out with a promise that the abducted pupils of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, would soon be rescued.
More than 200 girls were seized from the school on the night of April 14 by members of the terrorist Islamic sect, Boko Haram. The incident has attracted global condemnation and protests. Almost 90 days in the custody of the terrorists, there have been many not-too-pleasant stories about the welfare of the girls.
But briefing journalists at the end of the Council meeting, presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio said the military high command had given assurances that the girls were safe and would soon be rescued.
Akpabio said the council was satisfied that those security agents knew where the girls had been kept and that the soldiers were on top of the situation.
He said, “Top on the agenda of the meeting was the security of the nation. We were briefed by the President and the National Security Adviser on the steps that are being taken.
“Top on the security issue was the rescue of Chibok girls, which military authorities also confirmed that efforts were being made and that very soon we will have good news.
“It is also heart-warming to note that the issue is not whether we can rescue the girls, but the issue is how can we rescue them in a way that we can ensure their safety so that we don’t end up endangering their lives in the attempt to rescue them?”
He advised that Nigerians be patient in view of the worsening insecurity in the country, stressing that terrorism was a new development in the nation and that it would take time to put an end to it.
Akpabio said, “What also came out is the need for Nigerians to be patient because terrorism is a new challenge in Nigeria and it is not something that goes away immediately and we have to be meticulous in our approach and make sure that we take the best steps forward to reduce and minimise possible loss of lives in an attempt to curb the insurgents.
“We are very satisfied the security agents know very well where the girls are located and they are on top of the situation.”
At the meeting were ex-Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Shagari; former heads of state, Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar; ex-military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida; and former Head of the Interim National Government, Ernest Shonekan.
Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who is a national leader of the opposition All Progressives Congress, was the only living ex-head of government that did not attend the meeting.
Also on the attendance sheet were Vice President Namadi Sambo; President of the Senate, David Mark; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; and some former Chief Justices of Nigeria as well as state governors.
Akpabio said the Council commended the security agents for being on top of the situation in the country.
The Council, Akpabio said, also ratified commissioners for the National Population Commission for Ekiti, Yobe, Jigawa, Zamfara and Kebbi states in line with constitutional provisions.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State said members of the Council were unanimous in their resolution that the media should put the country first in their reportage of issues bordering on security.
Oshiomhole argued that any report that celebrated terrorism would merely be giving the insurgents incentives, adding that the council also called on politicians to be more sensitive to national security.
He said, “It is not a partisan issue, because if there is no Nigeria, political parties become irrelevant and all of us can do better and we should change our language. Political parties should choose Nigeria first before partisan consideration.
“Also the role of religious leaders, that it is not helpful for any religious leader to seek to rationalise this act by suggesting that these people belong to one religion or that their target is another religion and that the entire thing is based on religion.
“It is clear that these are just criminals that are masquerading in whatever name they choose to call themselves. No genuine Christian or Muslim would think that God needs help to kill anyone.
“Nigerians, all of us whether in government or out of government on the issue of terrorism we should learn from the Americans; once America came under attack, whether you are a democrat or republican, everybody believes that without America, all these other divides will be irrelevant.
“I think Nigerians need to understand that and there can be no quick fix. What is required is that there is sufficient political will to deal with the situation to secure the Nigerian space.”
When asked whether Obasanjo got the Federal Government’s nod to engage the Boko Haram sect on the Chibok girls as he had requested in the media, Akpabio asked journalists to approach the former President to speak for himself.
“That would be a third party report. The best thing is that since he is outside there, you can approach him and ask if he got the nod,” the governor said.