- Women protesters demand immediate release
- Deal for freedom ongoing – Negotiator
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi & Umar Mohammed Puma with agency report
The House of Representatives yesterday summoned the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, Chief of Army Staff, Gen Kenneth Minimah, Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin, Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosun to explain how the 230 female students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State abducted by insurgents two weeks ago would be rescued.
This is coming on the heels of a protest staged by parents of the abducted school girls at the National Assembly complex in Abuja yesterday.
The aggrieved parents who wore black and armed with various placards with various inscriptions such as “Release our daughters now”, decried the continued hostage of their kids by Boko Haram had early in the day a staged peaceful demonstration at the popular Eagle Square before moving into the National Assembly where they staged another peaceful demonstration, demanding for the immediate intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan for the release of their daughters in the wilderness before any harm was done to any of them.
Speaking on behalf of the parents, under the umbrella of Kibaku Area Development Association (KADA), Mrs Naomi Mutah lamented that it was “painful that our daughters were carried away into the wilderness over 15 days now like cows to be slaughtered; since then, we have not heard anything from the Federal Government”.
“Where are the Human Right Groups in the country? Where is the Women Affairs Ministry?. Are there no government in the country? Are there no fathers and mothers in government again to deem fit to see the parents of the abducted school girls and tell us what is actually happening”
“If our children are dead, where are their corpses?, Let us see their corpses. For the past two weeks, nobody has come to us; we are dying in silence. Where are the international community? We need their assistance”.
She called on the leadership of both chambers of NASS to show sympathy to their plights by asking the federal government and the military authorities to ensure the immediate release of their daughters.
They later presented a letter containing their grievances to the Minister of Women affairs, Mrs. Zainab Maina, for onward transfer to President Jonathan which she promised to deliver to him before he close of work yesterday because of its importance.
Four senators, Hellen Esuene; Zainab Kure; Barnabas Gemade and Ali Ndume, addressed the protesters on behalf of Senate President, David Mark. They assured the women of their support and determination to throw their full weight behind efforts by the federal government to ensure the safe release of the girls.
In the House of Representatives, the lawmakers also urged the Federal Government to engage the service of sub-regional, regional, international security organization to help the Nigerian army in fighting the insurgency, in a motion, read under matters of urgent national importance by Rep Peter Biye Gumtha, (APC Borno.)
In the upper legislative chamber, the Senator representing Borno Central, Ahmed Zanna, alleged that Boko Haram insurgents have married the 234 girls earlier abducted from Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) in Chibok, Borno state.
To this end, the Senate urged the executive to seek the assistance of the countries within the ECOWAS sub-region, with a view to deploying the needed co-operation and advanced technology to rescue the abducted girls.
Meanwhile, a hostage negotiator in direct contact with the kidnappers of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria told Channel 4 News that their safe release is “within reach”, but that their fate rests on a knife-edge.
“The girls, we believe, are alive; but they have been moved from the location to which they were originally taken,” the intermediary told Channel 4 News. “It would not be hard to engineer a deal. It looks like they want to release them.”
The kidnappers have warned, however, that attempts by the military to launch a rescue attempt “may result in the deaths of many of the captives”. “They want a way out,” said the negotiator, who has long experience of dealing directly with the Islamist group Boko Haram in previous hostage crises.
The intermediary said the group believes it has already succeeded in embarrassing the government and instilling terror in the civilian population.
However splinter factions within the fractious group are understood to be arguing over what to do with their hostages. “The danger now is that the military will get involved and that can only end badly,” he said.
The hostage-takers have now been asked for a list of the girls’ names as proof-of-life. The negotiator – who wanted to remain anonymous for reasons of personal security – said the group is demanding a ransom but added: “we are hoping they will soften their stance”.
The abductors, who have been in intermittent contact with the intermediary over the past 48 hours, claim to have released “a number of hostages” because “they did shahada” – meaning forcible conversion to Islam, a hallmark tactic of Boko Haram.
Public fury in Nigeria is focused on the government’s perceived failure to respond to the hostage crisis. President Jonathan has emerged as a lightning rod for public outrage. “It is inexcusable that this government is not responding,” said Dr. Margee Ensign, president of the American University of Nigeria. “It seems it is either incapable of handling or unwilling to handle this situation.”