By Ben Agande & Ndahi Marama
MAIDUGURI— As the Federal Government intensifies efforts to locate and rescue the more than 200 school girls abducted three weeks ago in Borno State, Boko Haram terrorists struck again, Monday night, abducting 11 teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 15 in Warabe village of Gwoza Local government area of the state.
The gunmen also carted away foodstuffs and livestock belonging to the villagers before fleeing into the bush.
Gwoza is about 160 kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital.
A resident of Warabe village, Mallam Bello Umar, in a telephone call, confirmed the incident, pointing out that he was in the village when the terrorists struck before he ran to Gwoza.
Umar said: “A group of terrorists invaded Warabe village on Monday night, abducted 11 of our teenage girls before carting away our foodstuffs and livestock. As I am talking to you now, I have escaped to Gwoza council headquarters, and even in Gwoza, we are restricted to the council secretariat due to the fear of the terrorists. The situation is so pathetic as almost all Gwoza people including villagers who came for safety are only restricted to a safer zone close to the council secretariat where there is enough presence of security personnel”, Bello stressed.
He explained that the gunmen numbering over 20 armed with AK-47 rifles did not kill anybody, but scared everybody and the parents by abducting the teenage girls in the presence of their parents, before fleeing towards the hilly border areas between Gwoza and Cameroon Republic.
Meanwhile, protests across the country continued yesterday to put pressure on the government to step up its rescue efforts of the schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
Protests were held in Abuja, and Ebonyi even as President Goodluck Jonathan said that the Presidential Committee on the Rescue of the Abducted School girls was neither an administrative nor a judicial panel, and was not a replacement of the search and rescue effort by the security services.
The president has also accepted a definite offer of help from the United States of America in the ongoing effort to locate and rescue the abducted girls.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), on its part described the intervention of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan in the abduction of the schoolgirls as distracting.
US to deploy personnel, assets in rescue effort
The offer of help from US President, Barack Obama, was conveyed to President Jonathan by the United States Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry in a telephone conversation which began at 3.30 pm yesterday.
Giving details of the assistance to be provided by the United States, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, in a statement said they include the deployment of U.S. security personnel and assets to work with their Nigerian counterparts in the search and rescue operation.
He said Mr. Kerry assured President Jonathan that the United States was wholly committed to giving Nigeria all required support and assistance to save the abducted girls and bring the reign of terror unleashed on parts of the country by Boko Haram to an end.
President Jonathan, Dr Abati said, thanked Mr. Kerry for the call and offer of further assistance, saying that Nigeria’s security agencies who were already working at full capacity to find and rescue the abducted girls would appreciate the deployment of American counter-insurgency know-how and expertise in support of their efforts.
“After speaking with the United States Secretary of State, President Jonathan today (yesterday) met with the Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs and heads of national security agencies in continuation of the national efforts to find and rescue the abducted girls” he said.
The Presidential Spokesman said President Jonathan also received updates on the ongoing search and rescue effort, and gave approval for recommended further actions.
Jonathan inaugurates committee on Chibok girls
President Jonathan also declared, yesterday, that the Presidential Committee on the Rescue of the Abducted School girls was neither an administrative and judicial panel nor a replacement for the search and rescue effort by the security services. President Jonathan who spoke while inaugurating the committee however assured the international community and indeed all Nigerians that everything would be done to rescue the abducted girls.
“Let me assure the families and our dear daughters that in conjunction with international community that government will do everything possible to get our girls back.
“We share your pain and suffering and are with you in prayers. We urge you to co-operate with the investigations in spite of your understandably difficult situation. We implore you to remain strong,” the president said.
The President reiterated that the committee is neither a judicial committee nor an administrative committee to look into the affairs of the incident, pointing out that the clarification is necessary to avoid misconception and litigation.
He said that the operation of the security and intelligence services will continue to intensify till the girls are rescued and brought safely home to their families. Jonathan said that the committee would be primarily concerned with providing public interface with all directly concerned in the tragedy.
He said the objective was to provide a well-coordinated citizens’ inputs into the overall investigations. “Fellow country men and women, this is a trying moment for our country and it is reassuring that we have the empathy and cooperation of friendly countries from across the world at this time. “I am appreciative of the fact that this sad incident has attracted global outrage.
“This is a clear testimony to the fact that humanity can come together and stand as one against evil no matter how it is presented.
“This is the time when we must dwell together beyond all political, religious or regional divide against our common enemy.
“We must remain vigilant and be ready to assist security agencies and authorities at all time,” he said.
In his response, the chairman of the committee, Brig-Gen. Sabo thanked the President for the confidence reposed in them and assured that they would work assiduously to meet the expectation of Nigerians and the World.
Sabo also assured that they would discharge their duties without fear or favour.
Earlier, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen Anyim Pius Anyim had said that the work of the committee would be largely fact-inding.
He said the terms of reference of the committee would be to liaise with the Borno State Government and establish the circumstances leading to the school remaining open for boarding students when other schools were closed. He said the committee should liaise with relevant authorities and the parents of the missing girls to establish the actual number and identities of the girls abducted. Anyim added that the committee should interface with the security services and Borno State Government to ascertain how many of the missing girls have returned.
First Lady’s intervention distracting, counter-productive — APC
Meantime, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has described the intervention of First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan in the abduction of over 200 school girls as “distracting, counter-productive and calibrated to scapegoat others with the sole intention of exculpating her husband rather than finding the girls.
“Make no mistake about it, there is nothing wrong in the First Lady, as a woman and the mother of the nation, playing a role in resolving the unfortunate abduction of the girls, but that role must be within the realms of social activism, not in policy making or conduct of state affairs,’’ the party said in a statement issued in Lagos on Tuesday by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
It warned that melodrama, highlighted by the shedding of made-for-television crocodile tears, cannot and will not bring the girls back safely to their parents.”
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