BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group continued its Seven-Day Global Week of Action on Tuesday with Catholic Archbishop for Abuja Diocese, John Onaiyekan, calling on the federal government to do more to free all Nigerians in illegal captivity.
The week-long programme is to mark third anniversary of the abduction of Chibok schoolgirls who were seized by Boko Haram insurgents from their school in Borno State in 2014.
Onaiyekan was one of the key figures from the two major religious groups in Nigeria who joined a solidarity march of the BBOG group to the junction of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The cleric and the chief imam of Apo legislatives quarter’s Juma’at Mosque, Mouhammed Khalid, hoisted a banner with the inscription:‘I MARCH For ChibokGirls’, as they led the about three kilometres trek which began from the Unity Fountain in the Central Business District of Abuja.
Addressing reporters at the Federal Secretariat junction of the Presidential Villa, Onaiyekan said the inscription on the banner was about the life of every Nigerian deprived of freedom.
“Life is important. We have still almost 200 girls out there missing for about three years. So I feel concerned not only about the remaining Chibok schoolgirls but also maybe running into hundreds of other Nigerians who are missing, carried away by kidnappers”, the Catholic Cardinal stated.
"Their families are languishing. We came to draw the attention of the whole nation. We are glad that we are able to carry out this simple exercise of walking down the streets from the Unity Fountain to here. And we thank government for making police available to protect us.
“This is not the first time I am joining in this kind of walk. I was here a year ago. At that time, most of the Sambisa forest was still under the control of Boko Haram and when we were marching, we were hoping that our girls were somewhere in the hands of the Boko Haram within those premises", he added.
“Today, the situation is different. We have been told that the whole of the Sambisa forest has been completely cleared. The question we are asking now is: Where are our girls? They cannot disappear.
“Those who are responsible for taking away these girls, whether they are Boko Haram or not, they have the first major responsibility to tell us what has happened to our girls and then whether they are alive or they are dead, whether they are around or they have been sold off. They have the responsibility to tell not only the parents and the family of the girls but the rest of Nigerians.
“And we believe too that the government ought to step up action in this direction. That is what is bringing us here and I believe the rest of the world has been waiting to hear and they can’t understand that we lose people like that and nothing seems to be happening”, he said.
“One of the major reasons why I came too is because this matter concerns me personally, and that is why I brought my brother here. The Holy father was taken away by kidnappers over a year ago and up to now, we have had no information about him.
“Now that touches me and I am sure there are many Nigerians who are suffering the same thing from the loss of members of their families. And so, this march is not just about Chibok girls, it is about the whole idea that Nigerians can just disappear, missing and we are not able to trace them, either dead or alive", he said.
The Islamic cleric, Khalid, told journalists at the event that he allied himself with the position articulated by Onaiyekan.
"I joined this action because I want to equally send the message that His Eminence is sending to Nigerians and to the government that we can never allow terrorists to win the war.
“If they get away free with those girls, then they have relatively won the war. That is what we can’t afford. And also, we are tired of having Nigerians kidnapped, abducted and just like that. We want more actions from our government.
“It is true that some clerics like myself have been killed in the course of the insurgence of Boko Haram. We are not saying that the government is doing nothing, we are telling them to do more”.
Also at the march were the conveners of the BBOG group, Aisha Yesufu and Oby Ezekwezeli.
The group began the seven-day global week of action activities Friday last week and vowed it will not give up on the 195 Chibok schoolgirls still under the captivity of Boko Haram.