“Boko Haram should be eliminated at the maximum of three months”.
With these words, northern governors expressed their expectation from the Federal Government and the international community that the insurgency spearheaded by the Boko Haram Islamist group should end within three months.
The governors spoke on a day the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, said her family was “outraged and heartbroken” over the more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram in Chibok, Borno State on April 14.
Also, yesterday, a senior US official said Washington was considering a Nigerian request for surveillance aircraft to join the search for the abducted girls.
The UN Security Council expressed outrage over the kidnapping, saying it would consider “appropriate measures” against Boko Haram.
The US is seeking to have UN sanctions imposed on the Islamist group.
These developments came on the heels of the arrival in Nigeria, on Friday, of a small number of the US and British experts to assist in the efforts to rescue the abducted girls.
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, who is also the Chairman of Northern State Governors Forum (NSGF), said, yesterday, that with the efforts against Boko Haram, insurgency by the Islamist group should end within three months.
Aliyu, speaking at the end of the NSGF and the Nigeria Embassy Washington DC, USA Investment Forum, held at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja, said, “Boko Haram should be eliminated at the maximum of three months. That is the expectation of the northern states from the Federal Government and the international community.”
According to him, all hands ought to be on deck to end the Boko Haram insurgency.
The governor’s words: “The current challenges facing our country demonstrates the importance of working together across geo-political zones, political party lines, and ethnic-religious affinities to defeat our common enemies – poverty and corruption, which, unfortunately, continue to undermine our efforts in taking our rightful place as the giant of Africa. We can no longer remain the sleeping giant. And the time for a paradigm shift is certainly now.
“We are under no illusions that achieving this will be easy, especially in a fast changing information age. We also believe that progress in any form comes with a price. Expectedly, as life gets better it certainly gets tougher, with emerging challenges and pressures that sometimes threaten to uproot communities and families from their established ways of life. We, however, believe we have a shared responsibility and morality as Governors of the Northern States to pursue programmes and policies that promote social justice, peace and security, which is the fundamental essence of governance.”
The meeting, which had in attendance the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Ent Whistle, the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Prof. Adewale Ibidapo Adefuye, some governors, deputy governors, key investors from Nigeria and the United States, was aimed at “creating opportunities for economic prosperity and security in the northern states and the nation in a period of unprecedented insecurity challenges.”
JONATHAN BEGS NIGERIANS
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, begged Nigerians to join him in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency.
Jonathan stated this at a luncheon party to mark the 80th birthday of the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, held at Otunba Dipo Dina International Stadium, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.
The President, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Gen. John Arogbofa (rtd). disclosed that his absence was as a result of the insecurity problems facing the country.
In his key note address, Jonathan said: “We all know that the nation is facing some challenges today and these are challenges we are all worried about, that concerns everyone of us and, because of that, it has not been possible for Mr President to come because there are visitors from outside the country with whom he has to share some views on how this problem can be resolved.
“I want to plead with all of us that these are challenges that we are all faced with, they are challenges that all of us should gather together to resolve”.
Mrs Obama’s unusual broadcast
US First Lady Michelle Obama, yesterday, said the mass kidnap of the Chibok girls was part of a wider pattern of threats and intimidation facing girls around the world who pursue education.
She said she and her husband Barack Obama were “outraged and heartbroken” over the abduction.
She was speaking instead of her husband in the weekly presidential address.
Mrs Obama, who was speaking ahead of Mother’s Day in the US today, said the girls reminded her and her husband of their own daughters.
“What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident. It’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions,” she said.
She cited the Pakistani schoolgirl and campaigner Malala Yousafzai,who was shot and wounded by the Taliban for speaking out for girls’ education.
“The courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action,” Mrs Obama said.
It is unusual for a US first lady to make outspoken foreign policy remarks, but Mrs Obama has campaigned for the girls’ release.
Michelle Obama has often appeared alongside her husband during the weekly address, which is broadcast on radio with a video version available online. This is the first time she has delivered the speech alone.
Earlier last week, she tweeted a picture of herself in the White House holding a sign with the message “#BringBackOurGirls”.
UNSC moves against Boko Haram
In a related development, UN Security Council expressed outrage over the Chibok abduction, saying it would consider “appropriate measures” against Boko Haram. The US is seeking to have UN sanctions imposed on the group.
A small number of US and British experts arrived in Nigeria, on Friday, to assist on rescue efforts.
A senior US official said Washington was also considering a Nigerian request for surveillance aircraft.
British High Commissioner Andrew Pocock said drones could help gather intelligence but urged caution.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “The eye in the sky, even if it were able to be focused on the spot, isn’t a panacea.”
Traditional hunters armed with bows and arrows and old-fashioned shotguns were, yesterday, said to be ready to enter the forest where the girls are thought to be held.
Locals said 400 to 500 men had gathered but their departure was not imminent – they still hoped the army will step up its efforts.
An Amnesty International report had, on Friday, alleged that after Nigerian commanders were informed of the pending attack by Boko Haram to kidnap the Chibok girls, they were unable to raise enough troops to respond.
The commanders left a contingent of between 15 and 17 soldiers and a handful of police officers in Chibok to fend off the militants, the group reported.
“When it was clear these girls had been abducted, no reinforcements were sent to the town,” Makmid Kamara, a researcher with Amnesty International, said.
The report was based on the reports of more than a dozen people, including two senior Nigerian military officials, who gave varying, but consistent accounts, Kamara said.
But Nigeria’s defense ministry disputed the findings, saying the first word received was of an ongoing attack at Chibok.
The troops “did not receive four hours forewarning about the attacks,” according to a statement released by Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, a ministry spokesman. “Rather, they received information of an ongoing attack on Chibok from troops on patrol” who saw the attack and took on the militants.
Borno State Sen. Ahmed Zannah said the military sent reinforcements, but not until the militants were already in Chibok.
In the meantime, a group, United Alliance, yesterday, warned President Jonathan against negotiating with Boko Haram. The group said “any attempt to do this would mean legitimizing the sect’s actions and will box the government into a dangerous corner”.
In a statement by its northern co-ordinator, Mallam Bashir Ado, the group said those canvassing the position to negotiate with the sect are enemies of the country.
“We are closely monitoring developments in our dear country especially as it affects the activities of the terrorist group, Boko Haram and the position of some people that President Jonathan should negotiate with the terrorists,” the group said.
“Our position on this is clear and we strongly advise Mr President not to allow himself to be persuaded into taking such a panicky measure as the activities of this sect shall soon come to an end especially with assistance of the entire world.
“The apostles of the position are the enemies of Nigeria who ordinarily would not see anything wrong with negotiating with criminals”.
Insisting that the abducted Chibok girls must be released unconditionally, the group said masters of the terrorist group could not find their voice until recently when it became obvious that the game was up for them with the offer of assistance by the nation’s foreign friends,” United Alliance .
“ The masters of these criminals kept mum and have been giving surport to their activities but suddenly found the voice to speak out because Americans are coming to unveil them.
“It’s too much of a coincidence that former head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) whom the sect had earlier mentioned to mediate with the government on its behalf is speaking against the group and its actions now that it is almost evident that the Americans are poised to unearth some hidden things about the group and its sponsors”.