It has been five weeks of
suppressed anger, fragile peace, anxiety, trauma, hate and suspicion from a large chunk of Nigerian population following the abduction of well over 200 school girls at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State. Indeed, religious organizations, global bodies, various governments across the globe have risen to condemn the dastardly act against humanity.
It is for this reason that United States, Britain, China, France, Israel and many more sovereign nations have volunteered their security expertise to tackle the menace of Boko Haram sect in Nigeria.
For the past two weeks, Nigeria’s landscape has been under the increasing surveillance of the international community in a bid to secure the release of the Chibok school girls from their vicious and ruthless captors. The Boko Haram sect has offered to send the girls back home if the Nigerian government will reciprocate the “gesture” by freeing their members who are held in various parts of the country.
The leader of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad otherwise known as Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, in a video released last Monday, offered to free the school girls who were kidnapped by his fighters last month in exchange for the Boko Haram detainees. The 27-minute video showed a reasonable number of girls dressed in black hijab, reciting the opening chapter of the Qur’an in an undisclosed location.
“All I am saying is, if you want us to release your girls that were kidnapped, you must release our brethren that are held in Borno, Yobe, Kaduna, Abuja, Lagos and up to Enugu. We know that you have incarcerated our brethren all over this country,” the Agence France Press quoted Shekau as saying in the video.
He continued; “There are some of our brethren who have spent five complete years without seeing their wives, without seeing their children. There is even a woman that you released but refused to let her go with her baby. For God’s sake, even for ensuring their release, will I not kidnap? After all, Allah says I should kidnap.
“You that seized and detained my brethren for five years, you arrested and kept a woman without getting married for four years, you sieze and held our children.
“I will sell them, I repeat. And by Allah you will never get them until the day you release our brethren you seized and detained”.
In a swift reaction to the Boko Haram offer, Federal government officials came out with contradictory statements on government’s position, thus creating confusion in the minds of Nigerians and other members of the international community who are monitoring events in the country.
The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro told newsmen that the Federal government was closing in on the abductors and would not bow to their demands.
“Boko Haram has been designated a terrorist organization, hence it is unthinkable if this group gave out condition for anything to the government.
“As you know, Nigeria has invited international countries and we are closing in on them. There is no doubt that everybody has been eager to see that these girls are released, but in everything, there is supposed to be rules of game.
“Hence, no amount of pressure on Nigeria as an independent nation will make us to bow out. We know that this way is part of the rules of engagement, but as government, it needs to exert its powers towards adherence to the rules”, Moro said.
Also speaking, the Senate President, David Mark ruled out any form of negotiation with the Boko Haram insurgents, and assured that the Federal government would do everything possible to eradicate terrorism in the country.
“Boko Haram has become a real nuisance, and the menace is unacceptable. They have declared war on Nigeria and we will fight them with all the resources at our disposal.
“We will not allow it to go on for too long; government is very serious about it.
“It is an avoidable distraction and it is something we do not need at this point in our history when we are trying everything possible to bring development to Nigeria, to attract foreign investors.
“So, the message should go out loud and clear to anyone who is either a sponsor or a member of Boko Haram that we will fight them with all resources at our disposal”, Mark said.
The Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mike Omeri, however, in an interview with newsmen in Abuja, said “Government is reviewing the content of the video and the accompanying statement issued by the sect.
“Government will continue to explore all options for the release and safe return of our girls back to their homes.
“An earlier report by a section of the media purported to have been issued by government is totally false. This remains the official position of the Federal government of Nigeria”.
Pressed several times to confirm whether the federal government was going to negotiate with Boko Haram insurgents or exchange prisoners for the girls, he insisted that all options were open to the government.
“I still say all options are open. At the moment, all options are open. We are interacting with military and security experts from different parts of the world. So, there are part of the options that are left for us. There are more. If it is necessary that we use any action to get our girls, we will do it”, he said.
The Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki on his part, called on the leader of the sect to come for dialogue to end the onslaught on the Nigerian nation.
Turaki who is also the chairman of the committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to broker peace with the insurgents, said Shekau should demonstrate his sincerity by sending the representatives of the Boko Haram sects for negotiation with government.
According to him, “Dialogue is a key option in bringing the crisis to an end and that an inssue of this nature can be resolved outside violence”.
However, Director of Information at the Department of State Security, Ms Maryln Ogar, said negotiating with the terrorists was not an option.
“No government in the world will negotiate with terrorists. That is the best practice and we believe in the global best practice”, she said.
On the identity of the spokesperson for Boko Haram in the released video, Ogar insisted that the original leaders of the group, Abu Kaka and Shekau had been taken out by the security agencies.
“I think we have said on several occasions that Boko Haram has become a franchise. So, when you talk about Abu Kaka; when you talk about Shekau, Boko Haram has become a franchise. Anybody anywhere in the country can get up and assume Shekau and Kaka. Kaka is no more. Abubakar Shekau is no more. Both of them have been taken out a long time ago”, Ogar added.
The parents of the abducted school girls also commented on the Boko Haram video. A parent, Mallam Awana Babagana said with the release of the video, the parents believed their daughters were still alive and called on the federal government to do everything possible to secure the release of their daughters.
He said: “I have seen the video but I couldn’t identify my daughter. I hope they are the ones, we will keep on praying until they are released.
Another parent who spoke on condition of anonymity said he had the opportunity to watch the video, but he didn’t identify any of his missing daughters.
Also, another father of the kidnapped girls said that he would rather let his child die than have her converted to Islam or be exchanged for Boko Haram prisoners.
Speaking to the Telegraph of London, the man whose name was not mentioned for the safety of his daughter, said, “I have not yet seen the video, but I am not really interested in what Boko Haram’s demands are.
“My daughter is a Christian, she will never change. I would rather prefer she dies a Christian than convert to Islam.
“I don’t want a prisoner exchange either, our daughters are not prisoners and they should not be exchanged for anyone.
“Let the government try to rescue them. If they have a prisoner exchange, that will look like the government is giving in to Boko Haram and it will just encourage them to take more hostages. They will never stop”, he said.
For pundits however, whatever option that is most acceptable to government at this point in time is immaterial as Nigerians and indeed the entire world are more concerned about the safety and home-coming of the abducted school girls.
APC, PDP Bandy Words Over Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request
The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have argued over President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval to borrow $4 billion and €710 million to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget.
Recall that the president made the request in a letter he addressed to the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in reaction to the development, cautioned the NASS against approving the request, saying it could set the country’s debt profile skyrocketing without a feasible repayment plan.
With the approval to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans by its legislative body barely two months ago, Nigeria’s debt profile risks reaching over N40 trillion.
“More alarming is that the debts that APC is hanging on Nigerians are for nebulous projects whose scopes, utilities, locations and contractors are largely vague; a development that validates apprehensions of a huge swindle on our nation at the expense of innocent Nigerians, including generation yet unborn.
“Our party holds it as an act of wickedness that individuals who know that they will be leaving office in less than two years will be accumulating debts instead of seeking ways to reduce the liability they have brought upon our nation.
“The APC knows it will not be around after May 29, 2023. That is why it is pushing our nation into a deeper economic quagmire with foreign loans, which are largely diverted to the personal pockets of their corrupt leaders,” the opposition PDP said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Tuesday.
But responding to the PDP’s criticism, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, said the loans are for “the good of the country” and well-being of the citizenry.
The ruling party also accused the opposition party of looting foreign loans obtained during its 16 years rule rather than spending on infrastructure and economic growth as, according to it, Mr Buhari-led government is doing.
“It was in PDP’s era that loans to fund power generation, purchase arms and ammunition to fight a raging insurgency were misappropriated and diverted to fund PDP activities; and the borrowed money ultimately found its way to the pockets of cronies, friends and family members of administration officials. Nigeria is still servicing a $460 million loan taken from China to fund a phoney Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract awarded in August 2010.
“Nigerians should also reflect and recall that the PDP had in its 16 years of misrule pushed the country into a dark ditch of insolvency, and a period in which most state governments could not pay workers salaries, not even the minimum wage, or settle contractors’ bills and cater for patients in hospitals, to name a few,” the APC interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, said.
A’Ibom Gov Signs Anti-Open Grazing Law
Akwa lbom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law a bill to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches in the state.
The Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Udom (SAN), presented the bill for signing on Wednesday at the State Executive Chambers, in the Governor’s Office, Uyo.
The governor, after signing the bill into law, stated that the new law was no respecter of persons irrespective of status or calibre.
He instructed relevant authorities of government to ensure that the law was implemented and enforced to the letter with strict compliance, stressing that, culprits must be brought to book accordingly.
The new law will promote modern techniques in animal husbandry, prevent the destruction of farms by wandering cattle while reducing clashes and killings between herders and farmers in the state.
It will also promote international best practices in livestock administration, regulation and control in the state, among other things.
The state Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, directed the Clerk of the House, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to communicate the decision of the House to the Governor for his assent.
Also at the Executive Chambers, the Speaker who was accompanied by the Leader of the House, Udo Kierian Akpan, and the Clerk of the Assembly, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to the signing ceremony witnessed the inauguration of two C\committees by the Governor.
The committees are the Akwa Ibom State Gender Based Violence Management Committee, chaired by the First Lady, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, and Akwa Ibom State Road Safety Management Committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo.
NASS S’East Caucus Moves To Reconstruct Federal System
Members of the South East Caucus of the National Assembly have resolved to join hands with other patriotic Nigerians across regional, religious, political, and ethnic divides to reconstruct a federal system where the rights, happiness, and prosperity and those of unborn generations are guaranteed.
Making their feelings known in a communique issued at the end of an extraordinary meeting held at the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja last Wednesday, the law makers said the topic of the meeting centered on review of developments in the South East, particularly the security situation in the region vis-à-vis the sit-at-home orders by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and the detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“We expressed solidarity with our people of the South East over the marginalisation of the region in the scheme of things within the Nigerian commonwealth. The Caucus feels the pains of our people and their quest for equity, justice, and protection of their lives and property in every part of the country. The Caucus, therefore, resolved to continue to fight for a level-playing ground and an enabling federal system where Ndigbo are able to develop their homeland at their own pace and equally pursue their happiness and actaulise their enormous potentials in every part of the country, unmolested.
Reviewing the sit-at-home orders by the IPOB and the mayhem some nefarious elements have seized the opportunity to visit on the lives, properties, and psyche of the people, the Caucus equally reviewed and rued the incalculable economic losses and hardships these have brought upon the region.
They, however, condemned in strongest terms the disruption of the ongoing Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in some parts of the South East, particularly the incident at Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume, Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, where the English examination organised by the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, on Monday, September 13, 2021, was ruthlessly scuttled by armed men, who chased away the students, teachers, and examiners before setting ablaze motorcycles belonging to the teachers.
“This is certainly not who we are as a people. On the contrary, we are a people, who have always cherished and encouraged learning from the ages. We are a people that fully appreciate the place of education in the liberation and enlightenment of the human mind and the socio-economic and political emancipation of a people”.
The South East legislators equally condemned in strongest terms the incessant killings in the South East, adding “This must stop immediately. We call on the security agencies to unravel the culprits behind these wicked acts and ensure that they are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“ Noted with delight that IPOB has called off the Monday sit-at-home order and resolved to ensure that nobody uses them as façades to bring ruination on Igbo land.
“ Call on our people to go about their lawful businesses and enjoin our governors and the security agencies to rebuild confidence in our people by not only ensuring the security of their lives and properties, but also ensuring that our people feel safe as they undertake their legitimate businesses.
”Elaborately discussed the issue of Mazi Nnamdi and resolved to intervene. To this end we resolved to set up a committee to constructively interface with relevant stakeholders, the Federal Government and its relevant agencies towards finding a political solution. We will keep Ndigbo abreast of developments in regard.
“Appeal to our people not to allow anyone to destroy the South East region. The post-war South East was not built through government patronage, but largely by the sheer determination and sacrifices of our people, who refused to resign to fate or bow their heads in defeat.
“It is in Igbo land that you easily find hospitals, schools, roads, and other social amenities built by individual or communal efforts of the people, home and abroad, through the instruments of the town unions and other community organisations such as the age grades, Umuada, etc.
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