In continuation of their assignment, members of the Presidential Fact-finding Committee on the Abduction of the Chibok Schoolgirls have arrived in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The Committee members, led by the Chairman, Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo (rtd), arrived on Sunday evening aboard an Air Force plane. The team was received at Maiduguri Airport by the Acting General Officer Commanding the 7th Division of Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. M. Y. Ibrahim, and officials of Borno State Government.
According to a statement by the Committee’s Member/Spokesperson Kingsley Osadolor, Gen. Sabo (rtd) said the Committee had entered a crucial phase of its assignment. “We are now in the main theatre where the Chibok schoolgirls were taken away against their will. The whole world is mobilised against the abduction, and we cannot be happy while our daughters remain in captivity,” he said.
Sabo (rtd) reiterated that the Committee had an open mind to its assignment. “We are not here with preconceived notions. We are here to find facts that will lead to a resolution of the current hostage crisis involving the schoolgirls.”
He said the Committee, while in Borno State, would engage with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, to enable the Committee have a holistic appreciation of the matter at hand, and advise the Federal Government accordingly. He, therefore, called for the cooperation of all concerned.
During a courtesy call on the Shehu of Borno at his palace on Monday, the Fact-finding Committee Chairman recalled that, historically, Maiduguri was a famous centre in the Trans-Sahara Trade, but regretted that the city and the state had suffered severe socio-economic dislocation as a result of insurgency in recent years.
Responding, the Shehu of Borno, Dr Mustahpa El-Kanemi, described the Chibok abduction as unfortunate. He said the Kanem Borno Empire had been in existence for some 1,200 years, adding that the people were peace-loving.
“What is happening now is unfortunate. It’s entirely new to us. None of the leaders of Boko Haram is from Borno. They cannot claim to be from here. The problem was brought to us from elsewhere,” the Shehu said.
The Committee’s terms of reference are: to liaise with the Borno State Government and establish the circumstances leading to the School remaining open for boarding students when other schools were closed; to liaise with relevant authorities and the parents of the missing girls to establish the actual number and identities of the girls abducted; to interface with the Security Services and the Borno State Government to ascertain how many of the missing girls have returned; to mobilise the surrounding communities and the general public on citizen support for a rescue strategy and operation; to articulate a framework for a multi-stakeholder action for the rescue of the missing girls; and to advise Government on any matter incidental to the terms of reference. .
At its inauguration, President Goodluck Jonathan announced that the Committee was not a substitute for the search and rescue efforts already mounted by the security and defence forces.
The Committee had spent the past week in the Federal Capital Territory engaged in interactive sessions and consultations with a broad range of sources and contacts. These include the Minister of Defence, Service Chiefs, the Inspector General of Police, and heads of Intelligence agencies.
The Fact-finding Committee also met with the newly-appointed United Nations Secretary General Special Representative on the Chibok Abduction, as well as foreign experts and officials, who are in the country as part of the support pledged by various nations to the Federal Government’s efforts to rescue the abducted schoolgirls, and to deal with the insurgency.