By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — THE Federal Government, yesterday, said it would do everything within its power to ensure the safe return of the over 200 missing Chibok girls.
The girls were in April 2014 abducted from the Federal Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who spoke when the BringBackOurGirls campaign group visited his office in Abuja, yesterday, described the abduction of the girls as “tormenting and psychologically traumatising” for the nation.
He said: “It is tragic for a nation to have a budget meant for arms procurement for the protection of lives and property of the citizens, and end up not having the arms but compromising the process of making adequate provisions for the protection of lives of its citizens.
“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated sufficient skill and commitment to the protection of lives and property within the shortest practicable time of coming into existence. It has recorded tremendous success including confronting Sambisa forest head-on with the hope of rescuing the Chibok girls.”
The minister re-assured the group of government’s commitment to secure the girls’ freedom from captivity.
On looted public funds
Besides, the AGF told the group that the Federal Government, in its bid to recover looted funds, has put in place a formidable team of public prosecutors.
Re-stating President Buhari’s commitment to the anti-graft war, Malami said: “We have put in place a national prosecution team that comprises all stakeholders for the purposes of ensuring the success of whatever charge is presented before the courts.
“The committee will be saddled with the responsibility of preferring relevant charges and ensuring that charges are preferred in line with the dictates of the law without compromises.”
The AGF insisted that corruption cases under past administrations were deliberately compromised during investigation, alleging that most of the cases were bungled in order to pave way for criminal elements to escape justice.
The AGF said steps had been taken to audit such cases with a view to bringing the culprits to book, noting: “It is not just about having a team that will be prosecuting but ensuring that relevant audit is taken as it relates to previous prosecution to ensure that those that are found wanting are brought to book.”
FG’ll never subscribe to plea bargain
On the issue of plea-bargaining as raised by the convener of the group, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, the AGF said the administration of President Buhari would never subscribe to such practice.
He said: “I cannot imagine someone who was responsible for monumental deaths of our citizens through an act of corruption, going scot-free arising from plea-bargain as a policy.
“It has never been the policy of the government to make compromises on terrorism and financial crimes. It will never be tolerated by the office of the AGF.”
Ezekwesili blames Chibok girls’ travails on inefficient governance
Earlier, leader of the group and former Minister of Education, Ezekwesili, blamed the travails of the Chibok girls on inefficient governance by the past administration.
She recalled that since the advocacy for the Chibok girls began in April 2014, no concrete step was taken by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to secure the safe return of the girls.
She said: “In the movement, we over time realised that it is the failure of governance that resulted in the abduction of the Chibok girls and that corruption was the key obstacle to the rescue of the girls.
“To that effect, therefore, we believe that in recent times and the revelations that have followed, it is clear that there is a lot your office must do to establish a framework that assures Nigerians that every bad behaviour that took place and facilitated the abduction of the girls and every bad behaviour that impeded their immediate release must be fully prosecuted.
“The matter of disclosure of the Presidential Taskforce report on the fact-finding mission into the veracity of the abduction is key and urgent.
“The government owes it a duty to the girls under captivity, their parents, to the community of Chibok, the movement and to all well-meaning Nigerians that the report be transparently disclosed in its entirety so that we will know exactly what made it possible for our Chibok girls to have been abducted.”