CHIBOK GIRLS: NIGERIA, AUSTRALIA CLASH WORSENS

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Controversy surrounding the assistance which Australia purported to offer towards the rescue of the abducted Chibok girls degenerated on Friday as Nigeria insisted it had no record of such offer. Nigeria’s latest denial was in response to Australia’s insistence, on Thursday, that it conveyed its willingness, on several occasions, to Nigeria to deploy its special forces to assist in the rescue of the girls.
The Australian government, which spoke through its embassy in Nigeria, stated that it made the offers through the “normal diplomatic channels.”
The Research and Public Affairs Officer of the embassy, Okokon Odiongenyi, in an emailed response to inquiries about the offer, on Thursday, stated that the Federal Government failed to take up the offer till date.
“Australia has offered to provide whatever support the Nigerian Government believes might be useful in its efforts to secure the release of the girls. This advice was conveyed through diplomatic channels.
“The Nigerian Government has not sought to take up this offer at this stage. We are also discussing further cooperation in the area of combating terrorism,” the mail read.
Odiongenyi, who spoke further in a telephone interview on Thursday, said the Australian government was desirous of assisting Nigeria to rescue the over 200 abducted schoolgirls, hence its offer of help to the Federal Government.
Asked to mention the specific Nigerian official through whom the offer was made, Odiongenyi said he could not be specific.
He said, “We made the offer to rescue the girls, not once, not twice but several times through the normal diplomatic channels. I can’t disclose the official to whom the message was given, I can’t be more specific than that, but I assure you that we made the offer to the Nigerian government.”
But the Director, Public Relations, Ministry of Information, Amedu Ogbole-Ode, said the ministry had no record of the offer from the Australian government.
“We don’t have a record of the offer from the Australian government, ask them to provide documentary proof if they insist that they made such an offer,” he stated.
Also, the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency, Mr. Mike Omeri, on Friday insisted that the Australian government had not made any offer to rescue the Chibok schoolgirls.
The argument over the offer of assistance dates back to the official announcement made on May 20 by the Australia Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, in an interview he granted to 2GB, a Sydney’s premier talk radio station.
Asked by the broadcast what his government was doing to assist Nigeria, he said, “What we’ve done is we’ve offered our support to the Nigerian Government through our Ambassador for Counter-terrorism. I announced Miles Armitage on the weekend as our ambassador, he’s been heading up the division on counter-terrorism, he’s now our Ambassador for Counter Terrorism. We’ve offered our support through our High Commissioner in Abuja, that’s John Richardson. They’ve not accepted our offers yet but the United States, the United Kingdom and others have also offered support. I note the US and the UK met with the Nigerian Government and other African nations and the EU in Paris over the weekend.”
In the transcript of the broadcast, Bishop also stated the Nigerian Government did not seem to be in a hurry to rescue the girls. “I might be a bit rude in saying so but they don’t seem to be viewing this as an urgent matter,” he said.
Also on June 4, an Australian television website, abc.au.net, reported that the country’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Sky News that Australia had offered to lend its support but Nigeria had not responded.
Bishop reportedly said, “Australian troops, the SAS, are always on standby for contingencies. We have made an offer to the Nigerian government to provide whatever support they need to release the girls. We’ve made a specific offer to our UK and US allies … that we are ready to assist in whatever way we can.”
Again, he stated that the Nigerian government had not responded to its offer, saying, “They’ve thanked us for our willingness to be involved in trying to rescue the girls but we haven’t had any specific acceptance of the offers that we’ve made.”
But Omeri told one of our correspondents in Abuja that what happened was an informal offer of a general kind.
He said, “There was no specific offer from the Australian government. If a country is making an offer to you, it would be specific and through the normal diplomatic channel.
“If you hear the Ambassador to Nigeria, perhaps at a dinner, make a general, verbal offer; how do you want us to respond? They have confirmed to us that it was a general offer. It is nothing specific, we cannot respond to that kind of offer.
“They also said that they would call your newspaper to make clarification on the general kind of offer.”
Source: Punch

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