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The ongoing military search should not be limited to the over 200 abducted Chibok schoolgirls, the federal government was told yesterday.
The government, which was equally advised to insist on freeing everyone presently held captive by the terrorist group should there be a swap deal with Boko Haram, was told that the number of people held hostage by the insurgents was unknown.
The advice was given by a coalition of civic society organisations, non-governmental organisations, youth organisations, students, trade unions and associations at a peace walk/rally in Maiduguri, Borno State.
Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Ahmed Shehu, who was the convener of Alliance for Peace, who said a register has been opened for the roll call of those abducted at different times by the terrorist group, lamented that no one can give the exact number of those held captive by the sect.
He said many of those in captivity were even believed to have been killed by their families.
Shehu said: “Before Chibok girls, a lot of other girls were abducted in Dikwa, Konduga and Gwoza.
“We are urging stakeholders to stand up and work for our internal security; we are suffering, our people are daily being killed, their homes and all they worked for, destroyed, villages and towns burned. We are suffering from pains of the Nigerian system. This is not about which state, region, tribe or religion you belong to, this is about Nigeria and internal security.”
He added that: “We should not lose hope, we should not lose what we have (Nigerian), we must unite inspire of our political, religious and regional differences, we should rise against sentiment and corruption, terrorism has never stopped children from going to school in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it cannot stop our children from going to school and seeking education and knowledge.”
Shehu, while appealing to the abductors of the girls to please release the innocent girls unconditionally, he asked the federal government to “go extra-mile even if it means paying for their (abducted girls) release.”
Also speaking at the peace rally/walk which witnessed over 500 people walking through the streets of Maiduguri, a representative of the student, Hauwa Zakariya of Mafoni Junior Secondary School, Maiduguri, said the stakeholders in the education sector of the state decided to use the occasion of the International Children’s Day celebration to reflect on “children, their past and future.”
In her speech, she said: “As we commemorate the International Children’s Day today (yesterday), we must continue to care about our abducted colleagues and sisters of GGSS Chibok.”
Zakariya said: “Borno Children believe that one day we would study in our school in peace without fear of attack and abduction, a day would come when all the schools located in the outskirts would commence studies, a day would come when the girls would be celebrated instead of abducted, finally, a day would come when I could write a book on peace, on return of peace to the state.”
She added: “My fellow children in Borno State are not celebrating this year Children’s Day but in solidarity with the cause of #Bring Back our abducted Girls, and therefore “Borno Children would sleep with one eye open, the other eye looking for our abducted classmates. Borno Children can live their life but cannot move on till our classmates were found.
“Borno Children must remind the world of the plight of the Borno people who are daily being attacked, killed, houses and place of business, worship burnt, and their future destroyed.”