The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Alhassan, popularly known as Mama Taraba, yesterday at the State House in Abuja received a delegation of the parents of the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram and members of the BringBackOurGirls movement led by Dr Oby Ezekwesili. Below is the full transcript of her speech at that meeting.
I want to tell you here, maybe there is information that you do not know. When Mr. President made the promises he made to you, he did not just make them, went back and sit without doing anything.
Mr. President is not that kind of person; we all know. Mr. President with all of us have been on deck, working to see that our children are brought back.
The security people who are making effort to make sure we bring back our girls alive are all here with us. and everything Mr. President is doing is to give them directives to work towards bringing back our girls alive. And that he has done, he has given then instruction, the mandate to bring back our girls alive.
And they have been working; they will tell you by themselves what they have been doing. But mind you, I need to tell you that this is a security issue. It is not everything they are doing that they are going to tell us, including me. Because of operational whatever, they will tell you.
On the part of social networking which is under my ministry; the Ministry of Women affairs and social development. I have been directed and I have spoken with the Honourable member representing Chibok in the House of reps, I have told her the effort we have made on the instruction of Mr. President. And I have spoken with my namesake Hadjia Aisha Yussuf on it, I had looked for my Sister, Dr. Oby on the issue to tell her what we have done, what we are still doing and what we intend to do – I did, before the Christmas. It is not as if Mr. President made the promise to you and went and sat down.
I have been instructed to open a Chibok Girls’ office which will serve as a liaison office between you and the government. I have been instructed to do that and I have informed my namesake Hadjia Aisha Yussuf that I have done that and we have a Deputy Director heading the office – just one office on Chibok girls issue to show you how important the issue is to the government. The government can never open an office for just one single item. But that has been done, that is one.
Secondly, we have been drawing programmes, I had told the representative of Chibok in the house of Rep and I had told my namesake Hadjia Yussuf of the programme that we intended to do before Christmas. But it was too tight and we decided we should have it during the Christmas period and we should wait until after the New Year. And we still intend to have that programme, and the programme is one of…
So, for us my Dear Sisters and Brothers from Chibok and my sisters and brothers from the movement, It is like you feel the government is insensitive to this cause, because if the government is, when you hear the things that are being done from the security agencies, the little that they can tell you because they can’t tell you everything that is being done to bring back the girls, that is one, and secondly you have heard that this is what we have done and thank God I had informed the leadership of the movement, Hadjia Aisha Yussuf, and even the member of the house of Rep representing you that “this” is what we have done so far on the social welfare part and “this” is what we intend to do. I told them and I write a letter at the time. But you (Hadjia Aisha Yussuf) told me that we should take it to the Unity Fountain, that we will meet you. My officer went there 3 times without meeting any member of the group. But I said well, it was Christmas and New Year period.
I have no reason to lie to you, if I didn’t do it, I will tell you I didn’t do it. Because we wrote a letter, they went there three times because I had actually told your leader Mrs Aisha Yussuf that I was going to write a letter and I asked her I wanted an address to which I should send the letter, and you told me to send it to the Unity Fountain. If I didn’t intend to write a letter, I wouldn’t have looked for your number, called you and asked where to deliver the letter. Because your people are shouting that “it’s not true, It’s not true” and I have no reason to lie to anybody here.
So, my brother and Sister, the government has not left you, the government has not rescinded on the promises they made to you for you to say you are going to sit here until Mr. President comes. With due respect, I think it’s not nice enough because in the first place, Mr. President is a busy person and he has a schedule. If we had been told earlier than you told us, we would have made Mr. President present here and speaking to you. We still intend to have that programme we didn’t have at the end of the year so that Mr President can be there to see you and talk to you.
What Mr. President will tell you is not more than what he told you before that we are making effort and the promises that he made which he had directed us and the security people to do, so I plead with you to talk with us, Mr. President sent us here, the Minister of Defense is here, the National Security Officer is here, the Chief of Defense staff is here, I am here on the social welfare part representing the government. I think Mr. president has done especially with the short notice that you have given for today’s programme. Today is your programme and it is not too good to say you will just come and very short notice and see the President, so I am begging you, I’m pleading with you to agree to see us. Tell us whatever you can, whatever you want to tell us. and we will tell you what the government is doing. So that when we arrange that programme, Mr. President can still come see you tell you what the govt is doing, and we can still tell you what the government is doing because these are the officers responsible for bringing back the girls and we want them back alive.
And the social welfare aspect, I am responsible. My ministry is responsible, I have the office, I have the desk, the desk officer is here, Mrs Bulus,
(to Mrs Bulus) can you come forward please?
Mrs Bulus is the Deputy Director and in the letter we write to you, we gave her number, my number, you have our numbers and we say you can reach us 24/7 on whatever you want to find out. we are the liaison, that office in the Ministry of Women Affairs is the liaison between the government, you the group, and the parents. And we said 24 hours you can call us, 7 days a week.
You can call us at any time and ask your questions or tell your grievances to us and we will forward it to the government. Ok?
So, I will now hand over to the Minister of Defense, to tell you… and in the budget for this year we have planned mobile consulting clinics to be visiting you, to be counselling you, to be talking with you so that you can feel some relief before our children are brought back. We pray that we get them today but it’s not within our making, these children have been gone long before this government came to power, and you have heard promises. We don’t want to bring them as corpses to you to bury. We want to bring them alive, and we have to go slowly to make sure that they are brought alive.