By Kingsley Omonobi, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Ndahi Marama, Monsur Olowoopejo, Daud Olatunji & Segun Olatunji
ABUJA—Few hours after President Goodluck Jonathan publicly admitted that his government did not know where the more than 200 female students of a secondary school in Borno State abducted three weeks ago were being held, Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau appeared in a video yesterday, saying “I abducted your girls and I will sell them in the market”.
The abduction of the schoolgirls which has triggered national and international outrage, prompted protests by groups in various states in and outside the country.
The video by Boko Haram’s leader admitting responsibility for the abduction immediately elicited response from the Defence Headquarters which said it was taking the video seriously.
In the latest video, Shekau was seen dressed in combat fatigues standing in front of an armoured personnel carrier and two pick-up trucks mounted with sub-machine guns. Six armed men stood beside him with their faces covered.
The images of the video obtained by AFP are blurry at times but zoom in to Shekau, who spoke in Hausa, Arabic, as well as English.
For the first 14 minutes of the 57 minutes video, he takes a swipe at democracy, Western education, efforts for Muslims and Christians to live in peace and rails against non-believers in Islam.
“I abducted a girl at a Western education school and you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married,” he said.
“I will repeat this: Western education should fold up. I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Shekau said, claiming his group was holding the girls as “slaves”.
“I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine,” he said elsewhere in the video.
Unconfirmed reports from local leaders in Chibok suggested that the girls had been taken across Nigeria’s borders with Chad and Cameroon and sold as brides for as little as $12.
International attention on the plight of the missing girls was initially slow but has grown quickly in recent days, in part because of a social media campaign.
US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed Saturday that Washington would do “everything possible” to help Nigeria deal with Boko Haram militants and bring the children home.
We are taking the video seriously— DHQ
In its response the Defence headquarters said yesterday that it was taking all statements and information including the video released by the Boko Haram group claiming responsibility for the abduction seriously.
Emphasizing that the Boko Haram claim will not detract the military from its ongoing search for the girls, DHQ in an SMS sent to Vanguard last night said: “The claim by the group will be studied seriously”.
The sms sent by Major-General Chris Olukolade said: “On the so called video or message from the terrorists, let me reiterate the fact that we take every information or claims on this abduction with due seriousness.
“This claim will also be studied although it will not detract the military in its ongoing search”.
Protests in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Borno
Meanwhile, protests were held, yesterday, in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Borno and other places to mount pressure on the government to speed up its efforts in rescuing the girls.
Youths and students in Borno state led by Comrade Yusuf Tom and Miss Fatima Zanna Maliki have given government 40 days from the day of the abduction of the female students in Chibok, which is expected to lapse on May 24, 2014, stating that, if by then the girls were not released, they are going to mobilise students nationwide and gather at the Ramat Square in Maiduguri, where they hope to go on hunger strike until government does everything within its power to release the abducted students.
The students who condemned in strong terms the abduction also urged the Federal Government to step up it’s effort towards speedy resolution of the security challenges in the country, as it had taken so long and was constantly taking different dimensions.
The students who commended the efforts of the civilian JTF towards ensuring return of peace in the state capital also called on youths in the state to be law abiding and embrace peaceful means in addressing their grievances.
Falana leads women protest
In Lagos, thousands of women, accompanied by the Lagos-based human rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, protested to the governor’s office.
The aggrieved protesters who stormed the road at about 8 am, marched from Allen Roundabout, Awolowo Way, Ikeja to the State House, Alausa Secretariat, to express their displeasure over the abduction of the girls by the Boko Haram group.
There was traffic gridlock in Ikeja and its environs as a result of the activities of the protesters, who took over the entire road, forcing motorists to slow down or detour to alternative routes.
The protest, organised by Women for Peace and Justice in Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter, comprised various women coalition groups, accompanied by their men counterparts.
The protesters, who displayed placards with various inscriptions, and clad in red attire chanted different anti-government slogans.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards, read: “Our future leaders are missing, bring them back”; “Chad, Cameroon and Niger, stop enabling criminals”; “We want our girls back alive”; “Save innocent girls”; “Enough is Enough, 234 girls, Haba!” “FGN, Free the Chibok Girls”; “We will never relent until our girls are released”; “No election, if insurgency is not solved”, among others.
Aside the inscriptions on the placards, the protesters also had on their dresses.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, former Attorney General of Lagos State, Mrs Wonu Folami, said the protesters were at the state house to express their grievances over the abduction of the girls in Borno State.
According to her: “Our children have been brutally murdered. Over 200 girls were kidnapped, it is very sad that nothing is being done about it. It is sad that the government does not even know the number of girls that are missing.
“We want security to be redoubled immediately. We want them back alive and without them, there can be no tomorrow. Fashola should double his effort to provide security in Lagos State as there are insinuations that they might strike here,” she said.
Speaking at state House, Falana, urged the Federal Government to deploy all the military formations to the rescue operation of the girls.
He said: “We demand on the part of the government, immediate rescue operation of these girls so that they can join their parents. We urge the Lagos State government to help convey this message to the Federal Government. Until these girls are released, we cannot give the government any pass mark, we want the government to re-double its efforts so that these girls can be returned to their parents.
“We call on the government to deploy all military forces in Nigeria to collaborate with the international organizations and countries that have gone through this before to ensure the freedom of these abducted girls.”
Spokesperson of the protesters, Aisha Oyebode said the essence of the protest was for the girls to be returned unharmed by their captors.
Oyebode, stressed that it was the responsibility of government to ensure that they were rescued and brought back home immediately.
“The longer it takes to rescue our girls, the greater the dangers they are exposed. The lack of action is unacceptable, the growing insecurity is worrisome and we as Nigerians demand an immediate and complete end to the politicization of insecurity in this country,” she said.
Responding on behalf of the state government, Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, assured the protesters that the state government would do its best to complement the efforts of the Federal Government in ensuring that the girls were returned to their parents unhurt.
Lagos Govt calls for 3-day fasting
Adefulire however, called for a three-day fasting and prayers by mothers and fathers in the country, saying prayer is the only way out of the insecurity challenges in the country.
“Let’s fast for three days as fathers and mothers for our children to be released. Let’s pray collectively for God to intervene. Let’s fast and pray for three days beginning from tomorrow. (today)”.
Amosun, Obasanjo’s wives lead protest in Abeokuta
Also in Abeokuta, hundreds of women led by wife of Ogun State governor, Mrs Olufunso Amosun trooped to major streets of the state capital, yesterday, to protest the abduction.
Mrs Bola Obasanjo, wife of former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Iyalode of Yorubaland, Chief Alaba Lawson; representatives of International Federation of Women Lawyers; market women, female artisans, female members of the state executive council were among the protesters in Abeokuta.
The protesters who stormed MKO Abiola International Stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta as early as 7:am, marched round the city, urging President Goodluck Jonathan to put more efforts and ensure all the girls were rescued from their abductors.
They displayed various placards with some inscriptions such as “Kidnapped school girls must be found”, ”Our girls are not sex machines”, ”Bring back our girls”, ”Haba!, this is barbaric in the 21st century”, ”Let all our women rise to save our girls”, and many others.
The match had some stop-overs at Government House, Oke-Igbein; office of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly; Governor’s Office and later ended at arcade ground in Oke-Mosan, where an inter-denominational service was held.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Mrs Amosun, who presented a letter to the governor for an onward delivery to the President, appealed to the governor to help them communicate their feelings over the abduction of the 234 female students of Chibok to the president.
According to her, “I know Mr President and his cabinet members have been trying, but they should put more efforts for result to come out.
“ The plight and pains of womanhood can be seen in the faces of these women here today. It is our cause, we should not say it is happening over there in the north. It is theirs today, who knows where it will be tomorrow? It is their children today, it can be our own children tomorrow, irrespective of political or religious groups we may belong to, this is a cause we must fight collectively. So, we want your Excellency to use every apparatus within your reach to help us in releasing these young and future leaders of this great nation”, Amosun pleaded.
In his remarks, the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun promised to deliver their message to the President, assuring them that the girls will be released soon.
He said: “I can feel your feelings as a parent and I understand how you are feeling now. You have demonstrated as good mothers and you have spoken well. Mr President has also promised that all hands would be on deck to ensure that the girls are released. He has directed all the security agencies to put more efforts to see that those girls are released very soon.
“It is very painful and together we must condemn the act, kidnapping, abduction and other vices are not part of us in this country and what is happening now is very painful but, I can assure you that their release will not take much more time. Let us continue praying and in togetherness lies our strength.
“Your message will be delivered and I can assure you that all your prayers will be heard as mothers. I want to thank you once again for your concern”, Amosun posited.
The women who were joined by the State governor, his deputy, Prince Segun Adesegun, Head of Service, Mrs Modupe Adekunle, Secretary to the State Government, Barr Taiwo Adeoluwa, Speaker, Suraj Adekunbi, all the state commissioners proceeded to Arcade ground where prayers from both Christians and Muslims faiths were said.
Boko Haram claims abduction in new video
Boko Haram, yesterday, claimed the abduction of the schoolgirls, threatening to sell them as “slaves”.
“I abducted your girls,” the Islamist group’s leader Shekau said in the 57-minute video obtained by AFP. Fifty-three of the girls managed to escape from the militants but 223 were still being held, state police said last Friday.
On Friday, the United States issued a security warning to its citizens in Nigeria to avoid two Sheraton hotels in Lagos, because of an unspecified threat.
International attention on the plight of the missing girls was initially slow but has grown quickly in recent days, in part because of a social media campaign — #bringbackourgirls.
Chibok girls: Mutah regains freedom
Mrs Naomi Mutah, who was delegated to represent women from the Chibok Women Development Association in Maiduguri has been released from detention.
Mutah was arrested alongside with Mrs Saratu Angus at about 6am, yesterday, following a meeting with the First Lady at the Presidential Villa.
The Leader of the Chibok Community resident in Abuja, Mr Tsambido Hosea confirmed the release saying: “Mutal has finally been released and has gone home to rest.”
Muah not arrested
Contrary to reports that a Chibok protester seeking the rescue of the remaining 230 girls of the Government Girls Secondary School from alleged Boko Haram abductors, Mrs. Naomi Mutah was arrested and detained, the Police yesterday denied any such arrest explaining that Mrs. Mutah was only invited for a fact-finding interview.
The #BringBackOurGirls Movement whose protest in Abuja was said to have been led by Mrs. Mutah had demanded for her immediate release, yesterday, insisting that she was detained at the Asokoro Police Station on the orders of First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
But a statement signed by Force Public Relations officer, CSP Frank Mba said: “As part of measures geared towards eliciting useful information that could help security agents in the ongoing effort at finding and rescuing female students recently abducted by terrorists, suspected to be Boko-Haram, in Chibok, Borno State, Police Operatives this morning, invited one Mrs. Nyadar Naomi Mutah, a native of Chibok and Deputy Director at the National Directorate of Employment, Abuja.
“It was purely an interactive and fact-finding interview. Mrs Nyadar cooperated with the Police in the course of the interview and was immediately allowed to return home to her loved ones. She was never arrested nor detained as being wrongly speculated in some quarters”.
Tinubu pleads for joint effort
Former Governor of Lagos State and national leaders of APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu has called on all Nigerians irrespective of religious or political affiliation to join in the campaign to find the abducted girls and help in improving the security of the country.
Tinubu in a detailed statement released to the media, titled, NIGERIA BLEEDS AND IT NEEDS ALL OF US, said Boko Haram’s ultimate objective “is to seek to destroy the spirit of this nation and pit us against each other.”
He said: “While I have no interest in partisan bickering at the moment, I also cannot allow the mere fact of my political affiliation to silence me on this transcendent issue. All Nigerians have a right and responsibility to let their voice be heard on this matter. Thus, I say what I believe must be said. If you think I do it for political purpose, so be it. Yet, I say it that I fulfill my civic responsibility as a citizen whose nation and way of life has been placed under siege by a hidden and sinister force. In this, I believe what I will say speaks for most progressives today.
“We stand united against this threat to our national existence. The twin-bombings in Nyanya are a challenge to us all. The explosion was craven attempt to demoralize the nation by striking an important transportation hub in our beloved nation’s capital. The second bombing stands as an act of evil defiance of constituted authority.
“The terrorists now try to frighten us by showing that our security forces are unable to stop them, even in our nation’s capital. However, whatever terrible lesson they think they teach us, we refuse to learn. Our classroom is life, liberty and justice. We do not take lessons in oppression, fear, hatred and death from them or anyone else. Whatever they think they won by this bloodletting, they have lost. They have made implacable enemies of every man, woman and child in Nigeria. We shall prevail. Boko Haram shall lose.”
Tinubu called on all Nigerians to let their voices be heard on this matter while calling on the Jonathan government to do the needful and step up to the plate. “Ultimately, it is the people who will defeat Boko Haram. If the people were to see government as their ally and true guardian, Boko Haram will have no space to operate. Right now it operates in the space created by widespread indifference and cynicism” Tinubu said. He further outlined five important ways in which the government can through policy tackle the root cause of the present security manace and make Nigerians more secured.