Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed yesterday defended the Federal Government’s response to the abduction of the Dapchi girls. He said it was swift as against ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration “slow” response to the kidnap of Chibok girls.
He said the government had deployed over 200 hours of air search for the Dapchi girls, and stressed that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had been “able to limit Boko Haram insurgents to their cowardly act of bombing soft spot and kidnapping.
Mohammed, however, urged the media to show understanding as the nation was undergoing trying times.
Mohammed spoke at the Foundation Laying Ceremony of the Editors’ Plaza by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) in Abuja.
The minister’s response was provoked by taunts by former Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio, who wondered why Mohammed had lost his voice on the abduction of Dapchi girls unlike in 2014 when he took swipes at the Jonathan administration on the Chibok girls.
Mohammed said it was wrong for Akpabio to “compare apple with orange” on the Buhari administration’s approach to the abduction of the Dapchi girls.
The minister said: “Now, don’t compare orange with apple. When Chibok girls were kidnapped, it took the PDP government 18 full days to admit that the girls were kidnapped. This time we swung into action within 24 hours. And as I speak today, I have been to Yobe State twice, the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff and NSA have been there.
“As of yesterday, we deployed over 200 hours of air search for the girls. Our appeal to the media today is to solicit for their support. We are now in trying times. It does not matter who is involved. We seek your support. We are not saying don’t criticise us, but be very fair and do it in context.
“It is so easy to forget that less than three years ago, 20 out of 27 local governments in Borno State were under the control of Boko Haram. It easy to forget that in 2013 and 2014, Boko Haram insurgents were strolling into Abuja. They attacked United Nations office and the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in Abuja.
“But today, we have been able to limit them to their cowardly act of bombing to soft spot and kidnapping. Achieving this feat is not a small thing.”
Mohammed said the Federal Government had performed well in the last three years.
He added: “We have achieved a lot in the last three years. We cannot do everything in two to three years, but we have tried.
“We must appreciate that in 2016, we imported 644,000 metric tons of rice, but in 2017, we imported only 4,000 metric tons of rice. Our Anchor Borrowers Programme is working so well, we have 4.2 million farmers in the scheme.
“We have just concluded a high level meeting of the International Conference on Lake Chad Basin. How many of us have availed our platform to tell the world that in 1963 Lake Chad occupies 25,000 square kilometers, but the same Lake Chad occupies over 2,500sq meters, meaning that we have lost over 90 per cent of the surface of the water.
“This is the biggest water basin in the world and the implication is where the 1200 fishes in the Lake Chad are. The land for fishing and irrigation has been lost.
“Our appeal to the media is that we need the media to tell our story rightly. These are trying times for the nation we need your understanding. It is because there is Nigeria that we have Nigerian Guild of Editors. If there is no Nigeria, there will be no guild. We must have a strong, united and peaceful Nigeria before anything can be achieved.”
The minister praised NGE for “daring to dream” to build the Editors’ Plaza in Abuja.
He said: “Let me congratulate the editors for this feat. This is not just an edifice but laying the foundation for journalism in the years ahead. I am sure, God will give everyone of you long life to see the fruit which you have planted today.”
Senator Akpabio, who chaired of the occasion, said the minister’s appointment was merited.
But he wondered why he was quiet on the abduction of the Dapchi girls, unlike in 2014 when as the spokesman for the opposition he was on hard on Jonathan’s administration when Chibok girls were kidnapped.
He said: “”A man (Lai) who before 2015 would have had a fantastic caption for the Dapchi girls kidnap. But because of where he is now, all he could do was to shake his head on the television.
“But in those days, he would just say ‘oh, look at what has happened to Chibok girls. I weep for Nigeria, I mourn for bad governance’. That was just then, but today, you would just shake your head and say, ‘well, there is insecurity all around the world’,
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