The protests against the abduction of 276 female students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State Monday persisted in Lagos, with a coalition of women groups, civil society organisations, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Victorious Army Ministries, calling for their unconditional release.
The coalition of women groups under the aegis of Women Arise against Terror declared a dare-devil plan to stage a half-naked march to the Sambisa Forest provided the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram did not yield to its call for the unconditional release of the abducted girls within 14 days it would be holding nationwide protests.
The CAN, Ikeja chapter, fervently interceded for the release of the abducted female students at the Conference Room of Lagos House during a visit to Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who acknowledged while addressing the women groups that the abduction of the girls “is a very dark experience for Nigeria.”
This came as the Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors’ Forum and Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, has condemned the spate of insecurity in the country and called on politicians irrespective of party affiliation to come together and fight the scourge.
The protesting women under the aegis of Women Arise Against Terror, marched from the Lagos State Television premises through Awolowo Way in Ikeja to the Lagos House where the Convener of the protest, Dr. Joe-Okei Odumakin, delivered a protest letter to Fashola for onward delivery to President Goodluck Jonathan.
The heartfelt message of the protesting women was inscribed on their placards, which read thus: “Rescue the girls now; stop the killings; hunt down defilers of innocent girls; secure Nigeria and end terror; fish out the beast; fish out the terrorists; we say no to terrorism; now and Boko Haram, stop terrorism now.”
The protest attracted celebrities former President of Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Priscilla Kuye, Chairperson of the NLC Women Committee, Mrs. Olubunmi Abikoye, a music maestro, Mr. Femi Kuti, ace Yoruba artists and actresses, Mr. Jide Kosoko, Mr. Ayo Badmus, Mrs. Foluke Daramola and Mrs. Iyabo Ojo, among others.
In a letter of protest read by Okei-Odumakin, the coalition demanded that the government must ensure that every one of the kidnapped girls was rescued and that the government must make adequate efforts to compensate them and their families for the emotional and physical trauma this incident had caused them and the nation.
Also, the protesting women asked the federal government “to facilitate the completion of their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) which they were writing at the time of their capture.
“The federal government must recognise them as heroines of the struggle against global terrorism and award them full scholarship to complete their education to serve as inspiration and encouragement to millions of young girls in the northern part and elsewhere in the country who are not enrolled in school or are contemplating ending their education having been terrified by this dastardly act, when they are released.
“The federal government must bring to book the masterminds of this and every other act of terrorism in the nation. We refuse to accept that there are no security reports on the sponsors of terror in the land,” the letter read.
In a response after accepting the letter of protest, Fashola expressed empathies of the Lagos State Government to the parent and guardian of the missing children, noting that the abduction of the 276 female students “must be their most harrowing moment for the parent; not knowing what happened to their daughters.”
He added that the pain and aggrieved the parents and guardians “are going through can only best be imagined. I salute all the protesters who have risen up to be brothers and sister to these girls. This is how it should be. I understand your demand for information. This is usually the case when crime like this occurs.
“This is the general global practice. But I do not know what the situation currently is. Chibok is a very dark experience for our nation. It is a difficult moment for our nation. It may yet be our most defining moment. It will be defining if we can find the children. It will be defining if after that happens, we can keep this sense of brotherhood alive"
Meanwhile, a group of concerned Borno citizens under the auspices of Southern Borno Development Association (SBDA) yesterday called on parents and guardians of the abducted schoolgirls to keep their hope of finding their daughters alive.
The group insisted that they are confident the girls would return home safely soon.
The group, while addressing a press conference in Maiduguri, said: "We urged the parents and the community not to lose hope that they will soon be re-united with their daughters."
The group, which was led by its chairman, Yahaya Gaya and Secretary, Abdullahi Mohammed, to the conference, said it was aware of the murderous and blood-letting acts of Boko Haram which it described as the worse in the history of mankind, but promised the concern, support and prayers of Nigerians and the entire world would turn their "gloom to hope and finally joy."
However Okorocha while speaking at the second Progressives Governors’ Forum lecture series held at Africa House in Kano Government House, yesterday, condemned the spate of insecurity in the country, called on politicians irrespective of party affiliation to come together and fight the scourge.
“As Progressive Governors’ Forum, we had planned this lecture series but we never knew that the Chibok incident will take place. Those children have not been rescued as at this time (Monday morning). Many of us may not know what the parents are going through right now. This is time for Nigerians to pray for the rescue of those children."
He revealed: “This is not the time to say who is right or who is wrong; but this is the time to close ranks and come together to rescue the Chibok children.”
“It is obvious that no political party, not even the PDP can benefit from this crisis. This is the time for the government in power, the PDP to reach out even to their perceived enemies to all work together to rescue the ugly situation that we find ourselves.”
The governor also stated that the forum had already donated the sum of N100 million to the families of Nyanya bombings, adding that they had also decided to help in rebuilding the destroyed schools in Borno State.
On the 200 girls abducted at Chibok, Okorocha insisted that now was the time for all Nigerians to come together and ensure the release of the innocent students.
He pointed out that if there was no poverty, unemployment and illiteracy, there certainly will be no Boko Haram, insurgency and insecurity.
In his address also, former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, challenged the federal government to renew its educational policy in a way that it could provide free and qualitative education in the country.
According to him, such step would go a long way to preventing insecurity in Nigeria, adding that the country’s security challenges might get worse if the federal government does not fix the education sector.
“Until the falling standard of education in Nigeria is fixed to engage out of school children, the incessant attack on innocent Nigerians particularly in the North-east may get worse.
"When we came to government in the 80s, we called for education review led by Professor Babatunde Fafunwa to review all the recommendations on education and identify critical point for immediate implementation. We most draw a clear cut and road map on our education to achieve desire success.”
General Buhari who regretted that no solution was yet on sight to rescue the missing Chibok girls, called for concerted effort to return to girls.