By EMMA UJAH, KINGSLEY OMONOBI, VICTOR AHIUMA YOUNG, OLA AJAYI & GBENGA OLARINOYE, with agency reports
President Goodluck Jonathan declared, yesterday, that the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram Islamist sect was the beginning of the end of terror in the country.
The president, who received unprecedented pledges of support in human and material resources to end the Boko Haram insurgency from world leaders in the last three days, said he was confident that the carnage of the terrorists would come to an end soon.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama of the United States of America, USA, has said that the kidnapping of Nigerian girls and sectarian conflicts worldwide are a sign that “we have not extinguished man’s darkest impulses.”
Obama spoke while accepting humanitarian award from legendary movie director, Steven Spielberg at the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, a Holocaust museum founded by Spielberg after he made the film “Schindler’s List.”
On the flip side, President Obama’s wife, Michelle, has joined a global campaign to free the Chibok girls.
In a personal message on Twitter, Mrs Obama wrote: “Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families.”
She also posted a photo of herself holding a placard with the message “#BringBackOurGirls,” referring to the Twitter hashtag that is mobilising support and used more than 1.6 million times on social networking platforms.
In addition, Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai, a 16 year old shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in October 2012, has added her voice to the campaign, appealing on Twitter for donations toward Nigerian education and empowerment programmes.
President Jonathan spoke at the official opening of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Abuja, on a day two West African countries, Niger and Mali expressed their readiness to do everything possible to help Nigeria rescue the abducted girls.
Jonathan said: “Let me thank all of you for coming to Nigeria at this trying time when we are facing terrorist attacks. Your coming here to support us is a blow on the terrorists.
“If you had stayed away, they (terrorists) would have been jubilating and even probably want to cause more havoc, because that is exactly what they want.
“Foreign governments have offered to help end the crisis and I can say that the kidnapping of the girls is the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, heads of government of Niger and Mali, the African Union and the Africa Development Bank, ADB, yesterday in unison, condemned the abduction of the girls and called for their immediate release.
The ADB President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka said: “Our presence here in WEFA holding in Nigeria is a statement that terrorism cannot win. Attack on the girls of Chibok by Boko Haram is a terrorist act which is condemnable.
“It is also an attack on the right of the girls to their future, and our presence here is to say no, it can’t happen.”
Earlier, Prime Minister of Mali, Moussa Mara, while thanking Nigeria for extending invitation to his country, said: “This entails international involvement of countries like Chad, Cameroon, Tunisia and Burkina Faso, among others, with whom this country was currently having discussions to see how problem of terrorism can be contained and prevented from further spread.
“Of course, each country must have a solid armed forces capability to deal with the scourge, but strong cooperation is needed among countries across borders.”
On his part, Prime Minister of Niger, Rafini, who disclosed that security in the Sahel is a great problem, especially with the infiltration of Al Shabaab terrorist group, pointed out that the rise in the spread of terrorism in the continent started after the Libyan crisis, regretting that it has got to Nigeria with devastating consequences.
Rafini said: “It should be noted that insecurity and terrorism have no borders. Whether there is security issue in Mali or in Cameroon or Niger, it should concern everyone.
“We must have a population that should say no to all the threats and terror attacks.”
The Co-Chairperson of WEFA, Madam Bineta Diop, stressed the fact that the education of the girls should under no circumstances be hampered after they have been rescued.
The Deputy Chairperson of African Union, Erastus Mwendia, said the abduction of the Chibok girls shows a clear indication of what terrorism can do and the danger of all forms of transnational crimes.
Mwendia said: “As we empathise with the people of Nigeria, we want to thank the international community for rallying behind the girls. We want to thank countries who did not give travel advisory bans to come to Nigeria because such decisions embolden terrorists that they are achieving success.
“The action of terrorists breeds radicalism, drugs trade, human trafficking, inter-communal violence, small arms proliferation and worst of all, our vulnerable youths are victims of evil ideology which is detrimental to the future of the continent.
‘Needs int’l approach’
“Terrorism is transnational, organised and its finances cuts across states. So a regional outlook to fight it must be pursued vigorously. African government, local communities and international partnership to fight it is the way to go.”
While suggesting ways by which terrorism and transnational crimes can be tackled, ADB President, Kaberuka said: “We have pockets of security threats whose origin, nature and mode of operation is international. They exploit local skirmishes and make it global. So it has to be tackled internationally.
“That is why they do not value lives and property; they feel they have no stake in anything. Another thing is I feel there are people out there (foreigners) just waiting to write the obituary of Africa burning.
“This is because in the last 10 years, the continent has been experiencing one form of growth or the other. Things are not as bad as it used to be and they are not happy.”
Meanwhile, there were massive protests in Oyo, Osun, Bayelsa and Plateau states yesterday by women, students of tertiary and secondary schools as well as female National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, members, demanding the release of the abducted girls.
The protest in Oyo and Osun were led by the governors’ wives, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, and Mrs. Sherifat Aregbesola, respectively.
In Oyo, after holding inter faith prayer at Lekan Salami Stadium, they marched from Adamasingba to the Governor’s office, wailing and praying.
Meanwhile, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, has decried the uncertainties and conflicting information surrounding the abduction of the students.
In a statement, President of SSANU, Mr. Samson Ugwoke, said the singular act by Boko Haram was enough crime to bring the group and its activities in Nigeria to an end.