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Published On: Thu, May 15th, 2014

Abducted schoolgirls: At last, Jonathan visits Chibok

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Jonathan under pressure
  • ACF berates president, wife

By Joy Baba, Abuja and Femi Oyelola, Kaduna, with agency report

After dithering for one month, President Goodluck Jonathan will today visit Chibok, Borno state, venue of the Government Girls Secondary School where over 200 female students were abducted by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents from their dormitories.

But the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has described as “disappointing”, the government’s response to the Chibok abduction, and Patience Jonathan’s meddling into the security matter.

Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, revealed yesterday, that the president will visit the burnt out school early in the day and later fly to Paris, France, where he will attend a security meeting tomorrow, Saturday, to discuss mainly the 5-year old Boko Haram insurgency in three North-east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

The meeting, which will be attended by government officials from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, is being financed and hosted by the French government. Delegates are expected also from the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

One of our reporters learnt, as at the time of filing this report, that an advanced team of the president had already arrived Borno, ahead of the president’s arrival.

Meanwhile, the ACF’s Rapid Response Committee, in a press statement signed by its Secretary-General, Col. John I. P. Ubah (rtd), yesterday accused the president of not approaching the abduction with a sense of urgency or seriousness until ordinary Nigerians poured out on to the streets.

“The approach of the President to the tragic abductions of the Chibok girls is not much different from his handling of the entire insurgency war that has engulfed the North, especially the North-east region since 2009. Even the president’s most ardent supporters readily agree that his prosecution of the insurgency war has been hesitant, feeble and half-hearted.

“The president hardly ever took action until he came under pressure from people outside his government. The mounting pressure from local and the international community is now compelling him to talk of deploying more troops to confront the Boko Haram insurgents. His belated acceptance of help from foreign powers had come only after the abduction of over 200 young girls, stirring worldwide outrage”, it said.

On the president’s wife, the statement said: “She conducted a mock trial of the officials on live television and at the end of it, declared that no school girls were missing, suggesting that the entire story was some hoax constructed to embarrass her husband.

“We caution that the request before the National Assembly to approve the extension of the year-long state of emergency declared in the North-east states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, be considered against its impact so far, which can only be described as disastrous.

“Before the State of Emergency was declared in the three states, between 2009 and 2012, the total causalities of the insurgency were less thanb1,500. But this figure sky-rocketed to over 2,700 during the one year of the emergency, according to figures released by Amnesty International”, it added.

The ACF committee also observed that it is not clear to the public why the violence has been escalating since the imposition of the state of emergency on those three states, saying the federal government does not need to declare a state of emergency before it can discharge its responsibility of maintaining law and order.

“It remains to be added that a majority of Nigerians, Muslims and Christians, accept that the Boko Haram insurgency is a fight against the whole country without regard to religion or ethnicity. However,

there is a small vocal minority who erroneously claim otherwise. It is on record that almost all locations attacked by Boko Haram are populated by mostly Muslims who are invariably the main victims.

“We should never forget that Boko Haram will be over-joyed to discover that their activities are causing suspicion, animosity and even conflict among Muslims and Christians in the country. We must deny them that victory”, the ACF pleaded.

Also yesterday, a top United States (US) Defence Department official, Alice Friend, criticized Nigerian security forces for being too slow to adapt in response to the threat of Boko Haram, saying that the Nigerian state has failed to mount effective campaign against the insurgents.

Friend, who is the Pentagon’s Principal Director for African Affairs, in a testimony provided to the Africa subcommittee of the US Senate, said America is committed to helping fight the terror group, and bring the over 200 girls abducted a month ago.

She also described as “more troubling” the atrocities being perpetrated by some security forces during operations against Boko Haram, noting that the US human rights law would bar it from providing assistance to the Nigerian military.

Friend disclosed that 16 US Department of Defense personnel with medical, intelligence, counter-terrorism and communications expertise have been assigned exclusively to advise Nigeria on how to recover the girls safely.

“Our intent is to support Nigerian-led efforts to recover the girls and help catalyze greater efforts to secure the Nigerian population from the menace of Boko Haram”, she said.

Several efforts to reach the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, for reaction to Friend’s allegations proved abortive as his number could not be reached and he did not respond to a text message sent to his cell phone.

 

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