Respite has come the way of the federal government in its bid to rescue the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok: United States president Barack Obama has personally offered to deploy US security personnel and assets to work with the Nigerian security forces in the search-and-rescue operation.
Specifically, Obama told President Goodluck Jonathan that apart from rescuing the abducted school girls, the United States security forces were also on a mission to Nigeria to bring terrorist activities inflicted on innocent citizens of Nigeria in parts of the country by the dreaded Boko Haram sect to an end.
The special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, who stated this during a press briefing with the State House correspondents in Abuja yesterday, added that Jonathan heartily welcomed Obama's offer which was conveyed to him by the US secretary of state Mr John Kerry in a telephone conversation which started about 3:30pm yesterday.
Abati said, "President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday welcomed and accepted a definite offer of help from the United States in the ongoing effort to locate and rescue the girls abducted from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, three weeks ago."
The presidential spokesman said Kerry assured Jonathan that the US 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".
Jonathan thanked Kerry for the offer of further assistance, even as he told the UN under-secretary that Nigeria's security agents "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".
Abati said, "After speaking with the United States secretary of state, President Jonathan today 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".
Another 8 girls abducted in Gwoza
Twenty-three days after the abduction of 276 girls from Chibok, Borno State, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped eight teenage girls from Warabe village in Gwoza local government area of the state.
The gunmen invaded the village at night and abducted girls aged between 12 and 15. They also carted away foodstuff and livestock belonging to the villagers before fleeing into the bush.
Residents of the attacked village told the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that "a group of terrorists invaded Warabe village at night, and abducted eight of our teenage girls before carting away our foodstuff and livestock".
"The gunmen numbering over 20, armed with AK47 rifles did not kill anybody, but scared parents before abducting the teenage girls under their watchful eyes," one resident said.
Gwoza, which is about 160 kilometres from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, had witnessed a series of attacks and bombing by suspected terrorists in recent times.
Insurgents kill 280, raze Gamboru Ngala
LEADERSHIP further gathered that the insurgents yesterday attacked and killed 280 people in Gamboru Ngala in Borno State and razed down the town.
A resident in the area disclosed this development yesterday. The insurgent had on Monday attacked Gamboru-Ngala market on Monday and were said to have burnt many security post, government offices and homes while shooting sporadically and detonating explosives
The source added that the insurgent thereafter proceeded into the town where they destroyed the whole place.
UN warns over sale of schoolgirls
Spokesman of the UN Human Right Rupert Colville said that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law, adding that these acts can, under certain circumstances, constitute crimes against humanity.
"Any perpetrators responsible on these can be arrested, charged, prosecuted, and jailed at any time in the future," Colville said.
Any buyer could also be held liable, Colville said, noting that enslaved girls are likely to be exposed to "continuous physical, psychological, economic and sexual violence" and that forced marriage can have a "devastating" impact on victims.
"The power differentials between girls and their 'spouses' is likely to undermine all autonomy, all freedom of will and expression of the girls. The situation they will be in will be tantamount to slavery, or slavery-like practices within the so-called marriage," he said.
Cameroon denies kidnapped girls are in its territory
Meanwhile, the Cameroonian government has denied allegations that some of the abducted schoolgirls have been taken into the country.
Cameroon minister of communication Issa Tchiroma Bakari told the Voice of America (VOA) that he was shocked by the speculation that some of the missing girls might be being held in the country.
"We insist that allegations from Nigeria that a part of the 200 young female students recently kidnapped in the northeast of Nigeria would have been transferred to Cameroon to be forced into marriage to members of the Boko Haram sect are fully unfounded.
"Cameroon will never ever serve as a support base for destabilisation activities towards other countries," Bakari added.
Bakari said this is not the first time Cameroon has been dragged into what he called the "unfortunate and heinous" crimes taking place in Nigeria, adding that his country is committed to combating terrorism with Nigerian authorities and all regional partners.
"Cameroon is subject to attacks perpetrated from neighbouring countries and by nationals of those countries. I will like to recall our entire willingness and readiness to cooperate in good faith with the governments of neighbouring countries to fight against trans-border criminality in respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each country," said Bakari.
Gunmen video school, hijack school bus in Nyanya
Nyanya became the target of another attack yesterday, when three suspected gunmen stormed a private school, about a kilometre away from the scene of the first and second bomb explosions in the area, and hijacked a school bus at gunpoint.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the three gunmen arrived at The Vine School International about 6am in a Golf car, parked a few metres away from the school's gate and began to video-shoot the nooks and crannies of the school.
According to a security guard in the school, the gunmen waited until 8am when pupils were already in class getting ready for teaching to commence, before they struck.
A private security guard, Mr Gabriel Fishing, told LEADERSHIP that no harm was done to any of the students during the attack: "As early as 6am, I sighted three men in a Golf car parked some distance away from the school carrying a video camera and were filming the area, but I thought they were camera men or film actors.
"A few minutes before 8am, they approached the school's gate where I was standing and brought arms from their bags, forcing me to lie down on the floor."
Fishing further said no one could ascertain their exact mission to the school.
He said while he was forced to the ground the gunmen forced one of the drivers of one of the school's bus with registration number XG 246 GWA and engine number R2H1050040875, Tunji, who had just dropped pupils, to hand over the key of the bus to them. "They wasted no time in driving away with the bus," he said.
He said the gunmen came to the school with an AK 47 rifle and two pistols.
The director of the school, Mrs Folakolade Temitayo, confirmed that she was not in school at the time of the incident but was informed on phone by one of her staff.
"I immediately alerted the police in Nyanya when I heard that the attack was going on, so that they could block roads leading out of the area in Phase Four.
Temitope, who said she had already directed her staff to send information assuring parents of the safety of their wards, said she would need to beef up security in the school.
She said as a result of the directive of the federal government for offices in Abuja to shut down preparatory for the World Economic Forum, the school had decided to operate only for Tuesday this week
The attack has sent jitters to all parents and residents who fear that the armed men may have been suspected members of the Boko Haram sect.
Security operatives including a dispatch of army, the police and men of the Civil Defence arrived at the scene of the incident a few hours after the attack.
An officer of army deployed from the Brigade of Guards who pleaded anonymity said that because of increasing incidence of crime and bomb attacks in Nyanya, a military unit has been opened in the area for speedy response to distress issues.
The commander, Army Headquarters garrison, N.T Ndionu, director of the Department of State Services, and the commander of the Civil Defence in FCT all visited the school shortly after the attack to ascertain the true position.
Sultan seeks foreign assistance to curb terrorism in Nigeria
Sultan of Sokoto Sa'ad Abubakar III has called for assistance from foreign countries to help to arrest the country's escalating terrorism.
His call is coming on the heels of the earlier one made by the minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala , calling for foreign assistance on Monday.
The Sultan, a co-chair of the Nigerian Interfaith Action Association (NIFAA), made the call at the Faith Summit for Child Health yesterday in Abuja. "We plead with our foreign partners to spread the message that we need you to come together and assist us, so that we bring to an end the insecurity issues rearing in our country," he said.
He enjoined all Nigerians to come together as one body to defeat terrorism, saying that terrorism does not recognize religion or ethnicity.
"What we must do is to come together as one body to fight terrorism at all levels. Terrorism does not know who is a Christian or a Muslim, because when terror strikes we all see what happens: the Muslims are killed, and the Christians are killed; even those who do not profess any religion are killed. What we need to do as leaders at all levels is to come together to defeat terrorism."
The Sultan also called on Nigerians to continue to pray for the country, saying, "We will get out of this; we are having our own share of such problems, and I want to say that there are many countries who are going through worse times than us, but because we don't know we are not used to this, that is why we are crying. But we know that whatever happens to your brother happens to you; so we must close ranks, talk to ourselves the more so that we can understand ourselves the more, because the more you understand yourselves, the less frictions you have . We all come from one God, so why are we fighting? Let's fight our common problems, diseases, poverty, corruption, insecurity and whatever, not the way and manner we worship the God that created us."
The Sultan, who co-chairs NIFAA with the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, said as religious leaders, they have an obligation to serve humanity. "The more we come together as one body, the more we can assist people," he said.
While soliciting for resources for the child health project, CAN president Oritsejafor said, " as religious leaders, we'll continue to be in our community after the last aid vehicle leaves. In NIFAA, every child is projected until every child has the assurances of a life free of sickness".
"We want to show the world what the faith community can do. Nigerian children are really suffering as the country has the second largest concentration of child's death in the entire world. We cannot accept such statistics at the realm of government and international organizations. We are seeing the results of collaboration and working together. It's really exciting."
Meanwhile, Sa'ad Abubakar has charged men to allow their wives especially pregnant ones to visit the clinic and hospital as that would help improve the health outcomes. "We need to sensitize people on the importance of accessing health facilities especially pregnant women."
He said that the report from the summit would put shame to negative reports about Nigeria "that we are killing one another".
Also, President Jonathan has revealed that Nigeria, like most countries, is not on track to achieve many of the Millennium Development Goals including Goal 4 which is the reduction of under-5 mortality.
Jonathan, who was represented by the health minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said that infant and child mortality rates are basic indicators of a country's socio-economic situation and quality of life.
He said, "Nigeria like many sub-Saharan African countries has a high burden of communicable diseases of public health importance that are responsible for high morbidity and mortality among children under the age of 5. Notable among these are malaria, diarrhea, acute respiratory infections (particularly pneumonia), HIV/AIDS, vaccine-preventable diseases, among others."
Committee won't ursup Borno govt's powers - Jonathan
Inaugurates fact-finding committee.
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday clarified on the constitution the committee he raised to embark on a fact-finding mission on the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, saying the 26-member panel is neither an administrative nor judicial committee set up to interfere with the duties of the state government.
Speaking when he inaugurated the committee set up during an emergency security meeting on the security situation in the country, the president, who noted that it was not even a committee that brings joy to him or Nigerians, said however that the committee was a necessary step government decided to take in confronting the "sad circumstances surrounding the abduction of female students, our daughters in Government Secondary School, Chibok".
He also clarified that the committee was not a replacement for the ongoing search-and-rescue operations by security forces nor for intelligence gathering required to assist that of the operation.
The president said, "First, let me make it very clear - luckily, the minister of justice is here -- that this committee is neither a judicial committee nor an administrative committee to look into the affairs of this incident. No. It is not an administrative panel set up by federal government or a judicial committee. I must make that very clear because those are the responsibilities of the state and not that of the federal government.
"I say so because before you know somebody will go to court and say that the federal government is inter-loping in an area which is supposed to be an exclusive preserve of the state."
Reiterating his stance that government was doing its best to rescue the schoolgirls, he said, "Let me assure the families and our dear daughters that in conjunction with international community the 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 cooperate with the investigations in spite of your understandably difficult situation. We implore you to remain strong.
"And to my dear committee members, your mandate is clearly defined in the terms of reference. You must be ever mindful of the sensitivity and the importance of your assignment and work meticulously and swiftly to achieve the most in the time you have.
"The whole world is watching you because that is why we made sure that an information officer is attached to you. Because I believe you will be speaking to the world every six hours or at least once a day as to the progress of the committee."
Chairman of the committee Gen. Sabo, who noted that it was a fact-finding committee raised to "cover the lacuna of the babel of information regarding the number of children abducted and the number of those released", assured that the committee will interact with the stakeholders with a view to conducting analyses and then fusing same to arrive at a conclusion.
On number of members of the committee, he said, "We are over 30 members; you know they added about four people."
The panel yesterday held its maiden meeting where it dissolved into clusters of work groups to immediately gather and sift facts from the public.
A statement of by Mr Kingsley Osadolor, spokesman of the committee, after it was inaugurated earlier by President Jonathan also clarified on why the three representatives of Borno State on the committee were absent.
Soyinka Backs US Assistance For FG
Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka has thrown his weight behind the federal government's decision to enlist the United States' support in the war against terrorists in the country.
Soyinka, who disclosed this while speaking on a CNN programme on Tuesday, said the federal government ought to have taken such steps to restore sanity in the country.
He affirmed that the federal government's acceptance of the United States' offer to provide assistance for ongoing efforts to rescue the abducted students was in order.
He reasoned that President Goodluck Jonathan should have asked for the US assistance much earlier, given the seriousness of the situation.
Soyinka said, "The situation has gone beyond the capacity of the federal government and it has to be internationalized.
"I don't believe in false pride. The problem has been allowed to fester for too long. We are dealing with monstrosity, the kind we've never known before."
Ogbeh to Jonathan: Take drastic diplomatic actions now against Cameroun, Chad, Niger
Former minister of communications and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Chief Audu Ogbeh has said unless immediate drastic diplomatic measures are taken against Cameroun, Chad and Niger for harbouring Boko Haram insurgents, Nigeria will soon be consumed by the savagery of the sect.
Speaking with some journalists in Abuja, Ogbeh who said Nigeria is in "grave danger" specifically called on President Jonathan to take serious diplomatic steps against the three neighbouring countries by declaring them enemies of Nigeria for harbouring the insurgents ravaging the north.
He further urged Jonathan to go beyond lamenting that there are Boko Haram loyalists and sympathisers in this government, especially in the army, but to weed them out urgently.
Ogbeh, who expressed doubt on the efficacy of the committee set up recently by the federal government to rescue the female students kidnapped in Chibok three weeks ago, also lamented that most security checkpoints in the country are porous as security agents are poorly equipped to detect explosives. He raised questions over the impact of trillions of naira disbursed by government for security so far.
The former PDP national chairman who defected to the APC also questioned the effectiveness of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, noting that, instead, "the thing is about strengthening of the security and probing them to know who is where and who is what and who is loyal or not".
He however lambasted the political elites in the north for causing so much poverty and underdeveloping the region, stressing that, over the years, they have focused so much attention on politics and scramble for elective positions but showing no interest in governance and development of the region.
He also advised the first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, to play more of an advisory role, noting "the duty of the president is to be chief public relations man in Nigeria and so certain things should be said only by him before you start causing confusion in the minds of the people".
He said, "We have got to take more drastic steps than we are taking because a situation where invaders arrive, kill 100 in Katsina, 215 in Birnin Kebbi, kill in Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, and, in the case of Benue, a chemical was used in a village to kill 18 people and we all covered in Fulani herdsmen, we think that there are mercenaries hired from our neighbours and faraway places because some of them when caught are of Arab origin. What is going on? Who is declaring war on Nigeria?
"These are very worrying situations and, as a people, we have to realise we are in grave danger and that we will give the president every support that he needs to take more serious measures and also for him to investigate our armed forces to know who is loyal and who isn't. He said so before that his military and his government have been infiltrated. Has he purged those who infiltrated it? He should use military intelligence to find out who is loyal or not.
"We sympathise with the president and his government; we also urge him to take serious diplomatic steps with Cameroun, Niger and Chad and other neighbouring countries that anybody who harbours criminals is an enemy of Nigeria. Obviously they know what is going on."
DHQ meets protesters in Abuja
Some protesters against the abduction of girls of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, yesterday, advanced to the Defence Headquarters to demand actions for immediate freedom of the girls but were stopped by security forces around the Old Parade Ground.
The protesters, numbering over 100, were stopped by a combined team of soldiers and policemen from the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), less than 300 metres from the DHQ.
They were later addressed by the director of defence information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, who assured them that the DHQ would "listen to you and your protest is understood".
Olukolade later took some of the leaders of the group to the DHQ for a meeting.
We have arrested perpetrators of Nyanya blast - Maku
Minister of information Labaran Maku yesterday revealed that some arrests have been made in connection to the recent terror attacks that saw two bomb blasts hit the Nyanya axis of the FCT and left dozens dead and even more injured.
Speaking during a heated conversation with CNN anchor Isha Sesay, Labaran made a case for the efforts made by the Nigerian government, citing the unpredictable nature of the "war" being fought.
He said, "In the case of insurgency and guerrilla warfare, you cannot completely rule out the fact that there will be surprises here and there. It is our responsibility as a government to ensure we succeed in this war and we are doing everything we need - deploying all the information we have, deploying the security services, deploying the intelligence.
"The bomb explosion in Nyanya -- we have arrested most of the kingpins involved in the bombings of the last three weeks from our own security services and right now we are screening them."
Labaran also explained the embarrassing mix-up of information that immediately trailed the abduction of over 200 girls from a secondary school in the Chibok area of Borno State.
He said, "Somebody brought wrong information within the security services to the military high command; so when they made that statement, it was based on the report that they received and in the end they found that the information that came was not correct and the military immediately issued a statement saying what was earlier said was not true."
Speaking in an earlier interview, special adviser to President Jonathan on information and media, Doyin Okupke, reiterated the commitment of the government to find the missing girls.
He revealed that a 24-hour information centre had been set up to keep Nigerians abreast of the latest developments regarding the rescue effort.
Counter-terrorism: COAS Announces New Initiatives For Army
The chief of army staff (COAS), Lt. General Kenneth Mimimah, has come up with new initiatives in the areas of administration and logistics to help the army smoothly conduct its operations nationwide, particularly counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency. This was disclosed by the director army public relations, Brigadier General Olajide Laleye, during the monthly press briefing at the Army Headquarters in Abuja yesterday.
Olaleye earlier said the briefing is in continuation of the Nigerian Army's policy of openness and regular engagement with journalists as a means of eliminating rumour and also providing timely and accurate information on its activities, adding that the briefing was essentially on the "fresh initiatives" of the COAS.