President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday admitted that since the April 14 abduction of the female students from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, he no longer sleeps with his two eyes closed, adding that the situation will remain so until the girls are rescued.
The president expressed optimism that the over 200 abducted school girls were still being kept within the country by the Boko Haram sect.
He also ruled out the possibility that the girls could have been moved out of the country by their abductors, hinting that they may still be holed up inside the dreaded Sambisa Forest.
President Jonathan made this known while addressing a world press conference at the end of the three-day World Economic Forum for Africa held in Abuja.
He also debunked speculations in the media that the nation’s security agencies did not respond quickly to the situation.
He further noted that most of those behind the recent bomb explosion in Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja, have been arrested.
President Jonathan said the visitor to Nigeria for the WEF-A would have seen for themselves that although the country is passing through challenges, it is moving on.
He said with the commitments and concerns shown by the international community, the abductors of the girls had no choice but to free them because they no longer have a hiding place.
He said, “Let me also use this unique opportunity to thank all of you who have shown commitment and concern those of you in Nigeria and those of you outside this country to continue to press on that these terrorists must bring back our girls.
“And they have no choice because I am quite pleased that the whole world is signing the same message that they must bring back our girls.
“And there is no where they will take this girls to, they have no hiding place, we must work with the global community that is quite keen to make sure that we bring back this girls.
“We plead with the parents as a father and the President of this country, I feel pained and I don’t sleep with my two eyes closed and I will not sleep with my two eyes closed until these girls are brought safely back to their parents.
“I thank you for all the concern, for all the sentiments, communications you are putting across to the rest of the world about what we are doing and of course where the world wants to support us”, he said.
Jonathan revealed that he is constantly in touch with heads of governments across the globe on the need for them to come to Nigeria’s aid in rescuing the girls.
His words: “I’m in touch with a number of Presidents. Of course,you are aware of my conversation with the American President and the United States government, French Government, the Chinese Government and other countries, willing to assist us.
“I have been talking to all the Presidents around Nigeria-Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Benin and I am going beyond that also because the crisis we have in Nigeria cuts across Africa. It goes up to Central Africa, it goes up to North Africa.
“So I’m discussing with the leaders within the region and of course the world leaders that will support us.
“A number of the countries already their personnel have arrived Nigeria to assist us to find the girls. Collectively we must find these girls”, he said.
When asked about the current location of the girls and their abductors, Jonathan said they were still in Sambisa Forest in Borno State.
Shooting down media speculation that the girls have been moved across the border to Cameroon, Jonathan said there was no way that was possible as people would have sighted the movement of such large number of people.
He said, “The attackers are in a part of Borno State described as Sambisa Forest. It is a forest area and we are working with the experts that will use remote sensor to see that wherever they are, we will see.
“So the best we can say is that they are within the Sambisa Forest area. Of course, I agree that they are stories that they have been moved outside the country, but if they move that number of girls to Cameroon, people will see. So I believe that they are still within Nigeria”.
The President described the report that there was a slow response on the part of security agencies and the government to the abduction as a misconception.
He said, “There is no slow response at all, no no. It is a misconception. The response is not slow. I have explained this. Borno State can be described as the headquarters of the terrorists, Boko Haram, they are more in Borno State, then followed by Yobe and then Adamawa.
“Immediately this happened, they have been following it – both the Army and the Air Force, they have been combing”.
The only thing we did not do because we felt it was not necessary then was to video the aircraft moving, the military people moving and the fighter helicopters.”
“We did not do the video to show because the people were on ground because of the state of emergency because of these terrorists. That is why people thought it was slow, no it was not.
“We started work immediately. It was not slow the Nigerian government responded immediately. If somebody gives you the impression that government is slow, that is not correct”.