My attention was drawn to a press conference held by the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Hajiya Aisha Alhassan, recently in which she claimed to be coming to the rescue of Chibok girls in the US. The minister alleged that some Chibok girls were taken to the US “under the guise” of going to school but that they were instead kept by “one Emmanuel” and were never in school. The minister’s defamatory comments are demonstrably deceptive and intentionally false as can easily be seen in the following.
1. Hajiya Aisha claims no contact was made with the government of Nigeria before the 10 Chibok girls in our program were sponsored to the US. The girls left for US in 2014. Senator Aisha was nominated a government minister in 2015 more than a year after they departed for US. She has no competence to speak on what transpired before she came into office. Thus obviously her statements were false.
2. In September 2015, one of the Chibok girls was invited by a former Prime Minister of UK to speak during the UN General Assembly. As a courtesy, we went to pay our respect to President Buhari who was himself also in New York for UNGASS. The SSA to the wife of the President mentioned to us that another set of Chibok girls had come to see her before their departure to US in 2015. At the time the president’s entourage was in New York, Hajiya Aisha had not even become a minister so again she could not speak authoritatively to what preceded her appointment.
3. In October, diplomats of the embassy visited the girls’ in both schools they were attending.
4. Prior to now, the girls had visited the embassy of Nigeria on multiple occasions:
a. In November 2014 on a courtesy call to the head of chancery
b. In April 2015 to obtain a replacement passport for one of the girls who lost her passport
c. In June 2015 when they were hosted to lunch by the ambassador late Prof Adefuye (See EXHIBIT 1: photo in ambassador’s office)
Again, the minister would not have the competence to speak to this as she was still litigating her ill-fated bid to govern Taraba state.
5. In March 2016, the minister and myself were scheduled panelists at the United Nation’s Consultation on the Status of Women in New York where her ministry had invited me to speak on the issue of Chibok. I was duly accredited by both the consulate of Nigeria and the United Nation as a resource person.
6. In April 2016, I was invited to Nigeria to present a briefing to the presidency on the Chibok girls at Aso Rock presidential villa where we gave a status report of the girls’ performance after 2 years.
7. I visited Chibok parents in the northeast including Mr. Paul Ali and presented to him a photo album of his daughter’s scholastic and other activities.
8. Mr Ali gave an interview to the media team accompanying US ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers and spoke glowingly of how well his daughter was doing in school in the US.
9. A member of the cabinet recommended I see the Minister of Women’s Affairs as she was responsible for Chibok issues. However even though I attended a CSO roundtable at the ministry of Women’s Affairs, Hajiya Aisha was still abroad for medical treatment.
Accordingly, it is not only abundantly clear that the current administration is fully aware that the girls are in US schools before and after the minister was appointed but it is also quite clear that I am not an unknown person but have been actively engaged on providing updates to various levels of government at home and abroad including the US Congress, the United Nations and the FGN.
The minister’s bizarre allegations raise the question whether she is simply guilty of ignorance or whether she is executing a script by intentionally misleading the general public and the media by her blatantly false remarks.
While we note that the minister has been absent from her office for several months due to her ill-health, one would have expected she would be properly briefed to avoid embarrassing the government of Nigeria by these obvious lies she has peddled to the public. However it appears that this is not mere incompetence or laziness but a carefully orchestrated campaign of deceit.
1. According to the minister, she was directed by the president to go and meet the Chibok parents. Since the president of Nigeria knows and was fully aware that the Chibok girls were in school, the only logical conclusion is that he either failed to properly brief his minister of the truth or the president intentionally withheld the truth from her in furtherance of a hidden agenda. Whether the minister goofed in doing her basic homework or whether she was set up by the president, it is clear that this major blunder has only portrayed the government in the eyes of the reasoning public as being dubious, ill-informed, uninformed, mis-informed or untrustworthy.
2. According to the minister, she just discovered on Friday September 9 that there were five additional Chibok girls in the US apart from the 10 I brought to US schools. Again this is a deeply damning and self-incriminating statement. It reveals the government of Nigeria not only doesn’t know where the abducted 218 Chibok girls are but they do not know where the 56 escaped Chibok girls are either.
This is a major embarrassment for Nigeria to announce to the world without any sense of shame that two years after their escape, the FGN has misplaced, lost track or doesn’t know the whereabouts of the escaped girls.
This is all the more disconcerting as the FGN has collected millions of dollars from Japan, UK, US and others because of the Chibok girls’ abductions and till date has not sponsored a single escaped girl back to school.
We have a lot more information on those who have really taken advantage of the situation. However in view of the ongoing Sallah holiday, we want to give an opportunity to those who may have erred in their conduct, whether by omission or commission to use the time for sober reflection, repentance and course correction and behavioral change.
Indeed it is a key tenet of the Islamic religion to provide assistance to the poor. For those who have despised and disparaged our assistance to the poor Chibok girls, be advised that he who gives to the poor lends to God. Our recognition and reward comes from Him. If you deny it, it doesn’t change the divinity of the generosity and you may well attract wrath upon yourselves. Proverbs 17:13
“Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good.”
Once again, we call on the Government of Nigeria to use the Sallah break to seek how best to release the girls in Sambisa, how to resuscitate an economy in recession, how to recover its rapidly dwindling goodwill at home and abroad and to stop creating chaos and confusion for victims, activists and humanitarians, including the BBOG movement which is similarly under siege by this administration.
We wish the good people of Nigeria a Happy Sallah and wish the minister quick recovery.
Below: Exhibit 1 – Courtesy call on Nigerian ambassador to US June 2015
-Response of Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe