President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday again assured Nigerians and the world at large that the Chibok schoolgirls would soon be rescued from their abductors.
Jonathan announced scholarship awards for them once they are freed.
He said the girls would be free to use the scholarship in any part of the country they deem fit.
Speaking at an audience with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani Girl-Child Education Campaigner, President Jonathan said that the Federal Government was definitely doing everything possible to ensure that the girls were rescued alive and safely returned to their parents.
The Director of Operations of Malala Foundation, Shiza Shahid, told State House correspondents that the President said to Malala that “he can guarantee that all the girls that have been kidnapped, including the ones that escaped, will be given scholarships to go to school in other parts of the country”.
Also speaking alongside the presidential spokesman, Dr. Rueben Abati; her dad, Ziauddin Yousafzai; Malala declared support for girl child education and the release of the Chibok girls.
July 14 is Malala Day, a day set aside by the United Nations for the world to focus on putting all girls to school.
She said: “I am here in Nigeria on my 17th birthday for a price, which is to see that every child goes to school.
“This year, my objective is to speak up for my Nigerian sisters, about 200 of them who are under the abduction of Boko Haram.
“And I met the President Goodluck Jonathan for this purpose.
“I conveyed the voice of my sisters who are out of school or who are still under the abduction of Boko Haram and for those girls who escaped from the abduction but still do not have education.
“And in the meeting, I highlighted the same issues, which the girls and their parents told me in the past two days.
“The parents said they really want to meet with the President to share their stories with him.
“And I asked the President that if he wants to meet with the parents of the girls, the President assured me that he would meet with them.
“The parents of the girls still have this hope that there is still someone who can help them.
“They asked me if there is any chance for them to meet the President because at this time, they need the President’s support.
“I am hopeful that these two promises: the return of the girls from Boko Haram and meeting with their parents, will be fulfilled and we will see it soon.
“But the President said these girls were his daughters and he was pained by their sufferings and that he has his own daughters and he can feel what they are feeling.
“The President has expressed his solidarity with those girls and his sadness.
“He has assured that these girls will come back home safely.
“He has several options but that he will choose the best to ensure the girls are released safely.”
Malala also said the Malala Foundation has raised $200,000 for the abducted schoolgirls, adding: “And we want to use it to contribute to those children’s education.
“We have started working with two organisations here in Nigeria to be able to help these girls continue their education.”
The President had told the delegation that the Federal Government’s efforts were constrained by the overriding imperative of ensuring that the girls’ lives are not endangered in any rescue attempt.
“Terror is relatively new here and dealing with it has its challenges. The great challenge in rescuing the Chibok girls is the need to ensure that they are rescued alive,” President Jonathan said.
He stressed that the Federal Government and its security agencies were very mindful of the need to avoid the scenario in rescue attempts in other parts of the world where lives of abductees were lost in the effort to rescue them.
The President said that this challenge notwithstanding, the Federal Government was very actively pursuing all feasible options to achieve the safe return of the abducted girls.
He said: “The time it is taking to achieve that objective is not a question of the competence of the Nigerian Government.
“We have had teams from the United States, Britain, France, Israel and other friendly nations working with us here on the rescue effort and they all appreciate the challenges and the need to thread carefully to achieve our purpose.”
The President told Malala, who met on Sunday with some parents of the abducted girls, that he fully empathized with their pain and anguish.
He said that he would meet with the parents himself before they leave Abuja to personally comfort them and reassure them that the Federal Government was doing all within its powers to rescue their daughters.
President Jonathan reiterated his Administration’s commitment to ensuring the safe and proper education of all Nigerian children.
He said: “I personally believe that since about 50 per cent of our population are female, we will be depriving ourselves of half of our available human resources if we fail to educate our girls adequately or suppress their ambitions in any way.
“We are therefore taking steps to curb all forms of discrimination against girls and women, and have also undertaken many affirmative actions on their behalf.”
The President said that the Federal Government was also proactively evolving and implementing policies and measures that will benefit the abducted Chibok schoolgirls when they are safely rescued, as well as others that have been adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
These, President Jonathan said, included the establishment of a Victims’ Support Fund, the Safe Schools Initiative and the Presidential Initiative for the North East.
He announced that he would inaugurate a National Committee to oversee fundraising for the Victims’ Support Fund, which will also cater for families of security men and women who have lost their lives in the war against terrorism July 16, 2014.
The President thanked Malala for coming to Nigeria to support ongoing efforts to rescue the abducted Chibok girls and promote girl-child education.
“We appreciate your efforts to change the world positively through your powerful advocacy for girl-child education,” President Jonathan told her.