Abuja — President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, vowed to wage a total war against terrorism and do everything to rescue the more than 200 abducted schoolgirls in Borno state.
The President in a broadcast marking 15 years of democracy in the country, also promised to rid Nigeria of terrorists. He, however, said his government was willing to keep its doors open to the terrorists for dialogue and reconciliation, 'if they renounce terrorism and embrace peace'.
He said: "I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism. The unity and stability of our country and the protection of lives and property are non-negotiable. I have instructed our security forces to launch a full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorists on our soil.
DEMOCRACY--President Goodluck Jonathan closely followed by Vice President Namadi Sambo; Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha; Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Aloma Mukhtar; SGF, Senator Pius Anyim and the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan as they departed after the Special Day with Young Leaders of Nigeria to mark the 2014 Democracy day Celebration at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, yesterday. Photo: Abayomi Adeshida.
"I have also authorized the security forces to use any means necessary under the law to ensure that this is done. I assure you that Nigeria will be safe again, and that these thugs will be driven away - it will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.
"I have no doubt that, with the support of Nigerians, our neighbours and the international community, we will reinforce our defence, free our girls and rid Nigeria of terrorists."
Blames foreign elements
President Jonathan also blamed foreign elements who collaborate with citizens to unleash terror on the country.
According to him: "It is a sad fact that as I address you today (yesterday), all the gains of the past 15 years of democratic governance in our country are threatened by the presence of international terrorism on our shores. Our dear country, Nigeria is facing a new challenge. A war has been unleashed on us. Extremist foreign elements, collaborating with some of our misguided citizens, are focused on an attempt to bring down our country and the democracy and freedom we cherish and celebrate today.
"The despicable abduction of school girls from Chibok in Borno State has brought to the awareness of the entire world, the heartless brutality of these terrorists, who want to instigate a descent into anarchy and balkanize our nation. In recent years, terrorist attacks have claimed the lives of several of our compatriots, many have been injured or maimed, whole villages and communities have been destroyed and the economy of some of our states is in jeopardy."
FG ready for dialogue
The president, however, appealed to the terrorists to renounce violence and embrace peace, saying his government was ready for dialogue and reconciliation.
He said: "For our citizens who have joined hands with Al Qaeda and international terrorists in the misguided belief that violence can possibly solve their problems, our doors remain open to them for dialogue and reconciliation, if they renounce terrorism and embrace peace.
"My government, while pursuing security measures, will explore all options, including readiness to accept unconditional renunciation of violence by insurgents, and to ensure their de-radicalization, rehabilitation and re-integration into the broader society."
The President likened the terrorist activities in Nigeria to "the same warped and ferocious world view that brought down the Twin Towers in New York, killed innocent persons in Boston and led to the murder of defenceless people in the Southern Russian city of Volgograd. Terrorist activities have brought war and pains to Mali, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These agents of evil continue to brainwash and incite ignorant young men and women to attack the innocent. We cannot allow this to continue".
He paid tribute to the security services in the country whom he said were gallant and recorded successes in liberating nations and in peace-keeping, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and many places in Africa and beyond.
"Today, they face a different challenge, an unconventional war by terrorists. They are adjusting and are being equipped to tackle the new menace of terrorism. We must show confidence in their ability", the president said.
He said despite the multifarious challenges his administration has faced, the country has witnessed high national economic growth rates, steady improvements and expansion of national infrastructure, including airports and roads, the restoration of rail transportation, the efficient implementation of a roadmap for improved power supply, a revolutionary approach to agricultural production, as well as advances in education, sports, youth development, healthcare delivery, housing, water supply and other social services.
"In the oil and gas sector, our promotion of a sustainable local content policy, continues to guarantee equity and better opportunities for Nigerian entrepreneurs and skilled personnel. Significant increase in mobile telephone and national broadband penetration, making Information and Communications Technology (ICT) one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy. We have also developed strong financial markets and regulatory institutions. Our banks now have regional and global footprints.
"Nigeria has also gained recognition as the largest economy in Africa, the most preferred investment destination in the continent and in terms of returns on investment, the fourth in the world. We are pleased that the world has noticed, as global leaders converged on Abuja early this month for the World Economic Forum in Africa.
"Furthermore, under this administration, we have made consistent progress in improving the standard of elections in our country to ensure that they are ever more credible and truly representative of the people's free choice. The National Conference we initiated to deliberate and make recommendations on the best ways of resolving our current political and socio-economic challenges is ongoing. It is our expectation that its outcome will help to further consolidate the gains we have made from democracy in the past 15 years, and place our dear nation even more firmly on the path to greatness", the president noted.
He charged the citizens to remain united to win the war against terrorism.
He said: "Christians, Moslems, farmers, fishermen, herdsmen, teachers, lawyers, clergy or clerics, the rich, the poor and Nigerians from all sections of the country must work together with our security agencies and armed forces to overcome the terrorists who now threaten all that we hold dear.
The war against terror may be difficult, but the days of peace will come again. Terror is evil; nowhere in history has evil endured forever. The menace of Boko Haram will surely come to an end. I believe that because of your prayers, your courage, hardwork, faith and sacrifice, we will ultimately prevail over the terrorists and all other evil forces.
"We are a strong, resilient and courageous people. We will continue to partner with the civilized world, to confront international terrorism and every other challenge that comes our way with patriotic zeal and determination. We have challenges but we will surely overcome. Nigeria is our country. Nigeria is blessed. We will all collectively protect, defend and develop this country for ourselves, and our children".
Amnesty for Boko Haram
Meanwhile, the Minister of Youth Development, Boni Haruna , yesterday, re-echoed President Jonathan's statement that the Federal Government has an amnesty proposal for members of Boko Haram, who renounce violence and lay down their arms.
The minister disclosed this while giving an overview of youth position in the administration's transformation agenda at a special event tagged "A day with young leaders of Nigeria" to mark Democracy Day celebration.
He said:"Series of integration programmes have been lined up for the members of the sect who would surrender their arms and embrace peace.
"Let me use this opportunity on behalf of the Federal Government, to call on the members of the Boko Haram sect to embrace the government's gesture and key to amnesty programme."
Haruna said 30,000 Niger Delta youths have benefitted from the programme which has seen beneficiaries transforming from militants to wealth creators, employers of labour and skilled citizens.