Abeokuta — As global outrage continued to trail the more than 200 abducted school girls in Nigeria, the United States of America has gone ahead with its pledge to help in rescuing the girls. U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder is offering to send FBI agents to help rescue the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, a senior Justice Department source told 'The Huffington Post' on Monday.
Holder has also ordered an intelligence assessment of Boko Haram, which the United States designated as a terrorist organization in November 2013. "Let me be clear," Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday during a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, "the kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime, and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes."
It is unclear whether Nigeria will accept help from the FBI. CNN reported that Nigeria has not yet asked for help from the United States in finding the girls, possibly because they do not want "visible American forces in their country."
The insurgent group, Boko Haram, has now claimed responsibility for the April 15 abduction of 234 schoolgirls.
Leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau, made the claim in a video footage he sent to the French news agency, AFP.
"I abducted your girls," Shekau said in the video, according to AFP. It did not, however, give further details.
But Shekau threatened to "sell" the girls.
His group had invaded the GGSS, Chibok, in the night on the fateful day and the packed the teenagers, who had been taking WAEC examinations, into trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon.
Few of the abducted girls escaped from their captors but nearly 200 of them are still being held.
On Sunday, the authorities reportedly arrested a leader of a protest staged last week in Abuja that had called on them to do more to find the girls. The arrest has further fuelled outrage against the security forces.
Naomi Mutah Nyadar was said to have been picked up by police after a meeting she and other campaigners had with President Goodluck Jonathan's wife, Patience, on the kidnapped girls.
Nyadar was taken to Asokoro police station, near the Presidential Villa, fellow protester, Lawan Abana, whose two nieces are among the abductees, said.
But in a statement, the President's wife denied that she had ordered Nyadar's arrest, but urged the protesters in Abuja to go home, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said.
"You are playing games. Don't use school children and women for demonstrations again. Keep it to Borno, let it end there," NAN quoted her as saying.
Police authorities also denied arresting Nyadar, a native of Chibok who is a Deputy Director at the National Directorate of Employment, Abuja.
Nyadar was a prominent figure among those that organised the protest by women for the release of the abducted schoolgirls.
The police, however, said the woman was "invited for a brief interview in order to get useful information that could help security agencies in ongoing effort to rescue the female students recently abducted by suspected Boko Haram in Chibok, Borno State".
She has since been allowed to return home.
The police statement was signed by its spokesman, Frank Mba.
It 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 or detained as being wrongly speculated in some quarters."
Meanwhile, thousands of women took to the streets of Lagos on Monday to add their voice to the call for release of the 234 abducted girls still being held by the Boko Haram terror group.
Commercial activities were grounded in many parts of the metropolis, as the unprecedented large crowd of market women, social activists, Nollywood artistes and music stars as well as school girls demanded the release of all the abducted girls.
The protest, which was organised by the Women for Justice and Peace Coalition, had various groups of activists led by Aisha Oyebode-Mohammed, Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, Abiola Akinode, Ajoke Ashiru, Femi and Funmi Falana, Ayo Obe, Dolapo Osinbajo, Laila St Mathiew Daniel and a host of music stars like Banky W as participants.
The protesters, predominantly dressed in red attire, converged at the Allen Roundabout, Awolowo Way, at about 9.00 a.m. and marched down to the Governor's Office in Alausa to express their grievance.
Most of them carried placards some of which read, 'Bring back our girls'; '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!'; and 'FGN, Free the Chibok Girls'; among others.
Their activities caused intermittent traffic gridlocks on the Awolowo Way, as they marched along the road singing and demanding for the release of the children.
Major markets in Lagos were also shut in the morning in solidarity, as President of the Market Men and Women Association of Nigeria, Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, also led traders to join the protest.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, former Attorney General of Lagos State, Retired Justice Wonu Folami, said the protesters were at the State House to express their grievances over the abduction of the girl in Borno State.
"Our children have been brutally murdered. Over 200 girls are 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.
Falana on his part 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 organisations and countries that have gone through this before to ensure the freedom of these abducted girls," Falana said.
Receiving the protesters, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, said the state government would work with the Federal Government to ensure the girls were released, adding that it is disheartening to hear that 234 girls were kidnapped.
The office of the Ogun State First Lady in conjunction with Child Protection Network (CPN) and Ministry of Women Affairs also on Monday organised a protest rally against the kidnap of the female students.
The protester comprising over one 1,000 mothers was led by the state First Lady, Olufunsho Amosun, accompanied by wife of former President, Bola Obasanjo, Iyalode of Yorubaland, Alaba Lawson, Peju Osoba (Ogun State Coordinator, Child Protection Network) and Elizabeth Shokunbi (Commissioner for Women Affairs) among others.
The protesters, marching through major streets of Abeokuta, were seen with placards of various inscriptions such as, 'Let all women rise to save our girls;' 'Release our girls now;' 'Protect our women/girls'; 'Jonathan rescue our daughters'; 'Bring back our daughters now'; 'Agony of mothers'; 'Kidnapping is a massive embarrassment', among others.
Women in Ondo State were not left out in the protest, as they marched on a peaceful protest in Akure, the state capital, where they stormed the office of the Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, to demand from the Federal Government immediate release of the kidnapped students. Mimiko who was in the State's Executive Council meeting when the protesters arrived his office suspended the meeting and, in company of other members of the Executive Council, received the protesters.
The women were all clad in black, and carried placards with inscriptions such as, 'Bring back our girls'; 'Chibok kidnap is a disaster'; 'Release our future mothers;' 'Free our girls now', among others.
Addressing the protesters, the Governor described the kidnap of the students as "very unfortunate and pathetic", assuring that Federal Government would do everything humanly possible to secure the release of the girls.
Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, also spoke on the Boko Haram menace on Monday, expressing deep concern at the turn of the level of insecurity in the country. He said he was particularly deeply touched by the abduction of the young secondary school girls at Chibok.
The Governor, who confessed that the situation at hand is "very difficult", noted that the country was going through a challenging moment, which portends grave security threat to Nigerians.
"This is a very difficult day personally for me and very difficult moment for many of us and very for our country.
"Nobody can lie at ease if we remember that some of us are in danger. Some of our children are missing and some mothers and guardians are grieving.
"I cannot lie at ease and none of us should lie at ease. My heart grieves with these parents and I sincerely hope that we can find these children. It is a grieving period and dark moment," the Governor said.
Fashola made the remarks on Monday at the Second Session of the 32nd Synod of the Diocese of Lagos at Our Saviour's Church, Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos.
Describing the situation as a tough one, Fashola wondered how the girls could be abducted with ease, saying the tough time the nation is currently going through will not last.
Borno State Students and Youths Alliance in a similar vein on Monday declared May 7 as lecture-free day to pray for the safe return of the abducted girls.
Spokesperson of the group, Fatima Maliki, disclosed this at a news conference in Maiduguri.
She said the prayer would allow Nigerian students reflect over the situation, which she described as unfortunate.
"We are pleading with students all over the country, especially those at the tertiary institutions, to observe next Wednesday as lecture-free day to enable them pray for safe return of the abducted students.
"We also plan to use the day for soul searching and reflections over continued killings by Boko Haram insurgents in the country," Maliki said.
President Goodluck Jonathan and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, at another forum on Monday vowed not to succumb to the blackmail of terrorist attacks on both countries as the partnership between Nigeria and Kenya holds the key to a prosperous Africa.
Both leaders spoke at the Presidential Viila, Abuja, during a joint press conference after bilateral talks between their delegations on the second day of Kenyatta's three-day state visit to Nigeria.
Jonathan noted that the visit was not halted by the recent terrorist attacks on innocent citizens in both countries, stressing that "this has always been our message here too that terrorism should not deter us.
"They (terrorists) are people who don't mean well for our countries; though they are slowing us down and slowing development, we shall not let them have their way for long," he stated.
Kenyatta, who condoled with Nigerians over the recent bloody attacks in Abuja and elsewhere, recalled that his country has not been spared of such misfortune "in the hands of cowardly criminals who have no value for life".
"These attacks are aimed at cowing the people of our countries and derail our growth. But we shall fight them and we shall win the battle against them," he noted.
Former Lagos State Governor and national leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, also 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 statement entitled, 'Nigeria bleeds and it needs all of us', in Lagos on Monday, said Boko Haram's ultimate objective was "to seek to destroy the spirit of this nation and pit us against each other".
"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 demoralise 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," he said.
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.
Habib Aruna, Yinka Shokunbi, Aramide Oikelome, Temidayo Akinsuyi, Ekene Okoro, Funmi Falobi, Chesa Chesa and Hassan Zaggi, Segun Adeleye