Maiduguri — SEVENTY-SEVEN of the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists, a month ago, have been identified from the video released Monday by the sect. This came as the United States disclosed that it is flying manned surveillance missions over Nigeria in an effort to pinpoint the location of the abducted schoolgirls.
The International Criminal Court, ICC, on its part described the abduction of the schoolgirls as a crime against humanity. The alleged conversion of the schoolgirls into Islam by the sect has also been condemned by Islamic groups and the All Progressives Congress, APC describing it as unacceptable. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said the forceful conversion is a call for war.
Some of the escapee students and parents after watching the Boko Haram video in Borno State Government House, yesterday. Photo: Ndahi Marama.
Following release of the video by sect leader, Mallam Abubakar Shekau showing scores of the girls wearing hijabs and reciting the Holy Q'uran, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima ordered mass production of the video to be shown to the parents of the abducted girls for identification.
After the identification exercises, which Governor Shettima said, yesterday, was on-going, he confirmed that 77 of the girls have been identified in the video. Addressing the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners at the Borno State Governor's Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, where he released the names of the girls, he announced that he would not relent in the efforts to rescue the girls until they were all safely re-united with their respective families.
According to him, the process of identification was still on-going and, therefore, expressed optimism that more of the abducted students could be identified.
He said: "Fifty-four (names of other 23 girls were released later) of the girls in the video have been identified by their names at an exercise that involved some parents of the girls, fellow students that included escapees from abduction, some teachers, security men and some officials of the Borno State Government led by the Chief of Staff to the Government House, Abubakar Kyari. The parents and students were conveyed to the Government House in Maiduguri for an open identification exercise."
Shettima said the figures of those identified by their names were rising as the exercise went on at the Government House in Maiduguri as he was briefed every 30 minutes. Initially, while he was addressing the BBOG group, 36 names had been identified but before his press briefing an hour later, the number had risen to 54, which he informed journalists.
Shettima had on Monday directed the identification exercise to be conducted. Chairman of Chibok Local Government and other government officials were made to mass-produce the video and play before parents of the abducted girls, other students, especially those who escaped from captivity, teachers and management of the school as well as other community members in Chibok. But after the exercise in Chibok, Governor Shettima directed another round of verification exercise to be conducted at the Government House in order to cross check findings so as not to mislead the public (See names of identified girls).
The second exercise confirmed the preliminary exercise in Chibok.
The disclosure gave credence to claims that Boko Haram had been abducting both girls and women in the areas attacked by the sect in the last four years before the Chibok incident that gave rise to international outcry, probably due to the large number involved.
The names are currently being cross-checked with school records as well as names published some days back to ensure accuracy. The exercise continues at Government House and it is hoped that more names will be established by parents, students and teachers as well as management of the affected school.
Conversion of Christians to Islam unacceptable -- APC
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has strongly condemned the reported conversion to Islam, of Christians among the over 200 schoolgirls abducted, describing the development as totally unacceptable and downright unconstitutional.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, after an emergency meeting to deliberate on the Boko Haram issue, the party also described as utterly barbaric the action of the girls' abductors in forcing them to make statements against their personal convictions.
It reminded the abductors that Nigeria is a secular state and that the country's constitution recognizes the rights of the citizens to any religion of their choice, hence it is patently wrong and unconscionable to force any citizen to convert from one religion to another.
"This whole abduction saga has hit at the very soul of our nation. But just when we felt we had all witnessed the worst atrocity by the primitive, brutal group called Boko Haram, we are confronted with a totally repulsive scene of teenage girls, literally with guns to their heads, being forced to say they had converted to Islam.
"This is appalling, distasteful and unacceptable under any circumstance and we condemn it with all the strength we can muster," APC said.
The party urged the government to critically study the latest video by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau to see what other measures can be added to the ongoing international efforts to find and rescue the girls.
"We have consistently said some form of negotiation cannot and should not be ruled out to pry our nation from the grip of these terrorists and ensure the safety and security of our citizens.
"In this regard, we consider as prudent the government's reaction that 'all options are on the table' to safely reunite our girls with their families," it said.
Conversion has no basis in Islam --MURIC
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) described the alleged conversion of the abducted school girls by Boko Haram insurgents as an act that has no basis in Islam.
In a statement issued by the Executive Director of the organisation, Professor Is-haq Akintola, MURIC stated that such conversion does not hold water in Islam because a non-Muslim can only be converted on his or her own free will.
MURIC which cautioned the Federal Government not to enter into any deal with the rebel group in exchange for the girls with their detained fellows, urged the military to go back to the drawing board for firm and clear-cut strategies to bring down the insurgents.
On the purported conversion, MURIC stated: "We have no iota of doubt that the girls 'converted' under duress. Such 'conversion' is null and void under the Shari'ah.
"We reject the purported conversion of the kidnapped girls. It is cowardly, shameful, ridiculous and preposterous. It is sacriledge."
Quoting copiously from the Holy Quran-2:256 which says: "There is no compulsion in religion... ", Akintola said, "Such 'conversion' is null and void under the Shari'ah. The Glorious Qur'an is very explicit in this regard.
... .It's baseless conversion
"The so called conversion is therefore baseless, unfounded and of no validity whatsoever. It exists only in the hallucinated imageries of Shekau's demented mind," he added.
MURIC urged the Federal Government to dismiss Shekau's offer of exchange of Boko Haram prisoners for the kidnapped girls.
"A man who orders the invasion and kidnap of innocent young girls is honour-blind. Shame on Boko Haram! Shekau has no modicum of integrity left in his anatomy. He has no intention of honouring this deal. He is trying to buy time. He is digging in," he stated.
Besides, MURIC called on all churches and mosques to pray for the downfall of Boko Haram.
"This renegade group is out to defame and distort the true teachings of Islam. Members of Boko Haram are rebellious subjects and enemies of peace.
"We charge the Nigerian Army to go back to the drawing board and evolve more potent strategies for crushing this renegade group. To crush Boko Haram is a task that must be done", he added.
US deploys surveillance planes to search for Chibok girls
The US has disclosed that it is flying manned surveillance missions over Nigeria to try to find the abducted schoolgirls
Although Washington did not disclose the type of aircraft it deployed but its officials said "the planes have sophisticated equipment that could listen into a wide range of mobile phone and telecommunications traffic." These are functions usually associated with security drones.
A senior US administration official said: "With the permission of the Nigerian government, we are flying manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets over Nigeria and sharing commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerian government.
"We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and with the government's permission," said the senior administration official, who declined to be named.
No fewer than 30 US experts, including members of the FBI and defence and state departments, are in Nigeria to help with the search.
Forceful conversion is a declaration of war, says CAN
Also, National President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has expressed outrage over the purported conversion of the abducted schoolgirls by members of Boko Haram, describing the reported forceful conversion as a declaration of war against Christians in the country.
Speaking through CAN's National Director of Research, Elder Sunday Oibe, in Kaduna, Oritsejafor said the forceful conversion of the girls is tantamount to persecution of Christians in Nigeria.
Reacting to the latest video message by Boko Haram showing the Chibok schoolgirls reciting the Holy Qur'an, the CAN president noted that those girls can not be exchanged for the release of any detained Boko Haram member, as demanded by the sect leaders.
"First, these children are Christians and not Muslims and so they cannot be converted to a religion that is not theirs at gunpoint without conviction. Besides, is that how conversion is being carried out? All the children displayed are Christians and that is the motive behind the abduction," Oibe said.
"Secondly, it smacks of some form of religious persecution. If not, why are their captors converting them to another religion? And if they say they will use them as a condition to negotiate for their men in detention, our daughters are not criminals and cannot be used in any way to free their criminal fighters.
"Show us where in Nigeria you have seen Christians fighting and throwing bombs in the name of God? We challenge any one to show us where Christians have abducted Muslim children in the name of Christianity. We challenge anyone to prove in Nigeria where Christians have taken arms in the name of protecting Christianity or even carry out acts of genocide on helpless and defenceless Nigerians. As far as we are concerned, it is a war against Christians and Christianity," he explained.
Crime against humanity -- ICC
Meanwhile the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has said that the abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria was a crime against humanity.
Bensouda in a statement, said: "I am deeply troubled and alarmed by disturbing reports of alleged abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Borno State, Nigeria, and the most recent reports that more schoolgirls have been abducted. Such acts shock the conscience of humanity and could constitute crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, ICC.
"I share the agonising pain of the parents of the abducted girls, as well as their hope that the on-going national search and rescue efforts will result in the swift and safe return of their children. International assistance should be made readily available to bolster such efforts, as required by the national authorities.
"The troubling phenomenon of targeting females during conflict, this time, in Borno State, cannot be tolerated and must be stopped. No stone should be left unturned to bring those responsible for such atrocious acts to justice either in Nigeria or at the ICC.
"I express my solidarity with the families of the abducted girls and the people of Nigeria. The abducted schoolgirls must be released immediately and allowed to return unharmed to their communities and families."
It will be recalled that the situation in Nigeria has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC since 2010. In August 2013, the Office issued a report concluding that [there is a reasonable basis to believe that] Boko Haram has been committing crimes against humanity of murder and persecution since July 2009. Information gathered by the Office indicates that there has been a sharp increase in the frequency and intensity of attacks attributed to Boko Haram since January 2014, including a significant increase in alleged abductions of women and girls and of sexual slavery.
Some of Boko Haram's alleged crimes would also amount to war crimes, as the Prosecutor has recently concluded that the situation constitutes a non-international armed conflict.
As Nigeria is a State Party to the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on the territory of Nigeria or by its nationals from July 1, 2002 onwards. Having concluded that some of the alleged crimes committed in the Nigeria situation fall within subject-matter jurisdiction of the ICC, the Office of the Prosecutor is currently assessing relevant national proceedings in conformity with the principle of complementarity.
Under the Rome Statute, the Nigerian authorities have primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes. Such cases may become admissible before the ICC if there are no relevant investigations or prosecutions in Nigeria, or if the national authorities are unwilling or unable to carry out genuine investigations or prosecutions.
On the night of April 14, 2014, about 276 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State. The leader of the Islamic militants, Abubakar Shekau has claimed responsibility for the act of terrorism. Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist and Takfiri terrorist organisation based in northeast Nigeria had in a video released Monday, demanded an exchange of the Chibok girls for members of his group in custody of Nigeria's security agencies.
In a message sent to Vanguard by Florence Ozor of #BringBackOurGirls campaigners, the group said it would organise a protest today to mark one month of the abduction of the Chibok girls.
The statement further read: "It's 30 days since over 200 girls have been abducted by Boko Haram. We call on Government to do everything in its power to #BringBackOurGirls Alive and NOW."
Names of identified girls in video
1. Agnes Gafane
2. Saraya Stober
3. Hauwa Bitrus
4. Hajara Isa
5. Naomi Philemon
6. Hauwa Abdu
7. Magaret Yama
8. Shitta Abdu
9. Jummai Muta
10. Ladi Paul
11. Roda Peter
12. Filo Dauda
13. Godiya Bitrus
15. Ross Daniel
17. Hajara Isa
20. Saraya Emos Ali
21. Bilkisu Abdullahi
22. Mairama Ali
23. Maryam Ali Maiyanga
24. Deborah Abbas
25. Kabu Mala
26. Halima Ali
27. Yana Bukar
28. Solomi Pugu
29. Lydia Emmar
30. Luba Sanda
31. Saraya Samuel
32. Comfort Habila
33. Rejoice Shanki
34. Gloria Yaga
35. Mary Nkeki
36. Moda Baba
37. Hauwa Isuwa
38. Patience Jacob
39. Ladi Jajel
40. Abigel Bukar
41. Fanta Lawan
42. Zainabu Yaga
43. Aisha Lawan Zanna
44. Dokas Yakubu
45. Kabu Mala
46. Maryama Bashir
47. Hauwa M. Maina
48. Mary G. Dauda
49. Susana Yakubu
50. Maryam Abbas
51. Laraba John
52. Hanatu Nuhu
53. Naomi Bukar
54. Rifkatu Galang