By Prudence Arobani, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The mass abduction of over 200 schoolgirls at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno by the Boko Haram insurgents has attracted global outcry against the sect.
The girls, whose ages range from 16 to 18 years, were reportedly loaded into trucks and forcefully taken away from their hostels around midnight on April 14.
Hajia Asabe Kwambura, the school’s Principal, said: “A total of 230 parents registered the names of their daughters who were missing on the day of the kidnap.
“From my records, 43 girls have so far escaped on their own from their kidnappers; we still have 187 girls missing,” she added.
However, the Borno State Government said that 276 students were missing, while 53 students had been found but some sources put the figure of the missing students at 180.
Few days later, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram sect, threatened in a video recording to sell the abducted girls.
Compounding the fears of concerned citizens on the plight of the kidnapped girls, Sen. Ahmed Zanna (PDP-Borno Central) alleged that the girls had been shared among the insurgents as wives and mistresses.
Zanna also said that some of the girls have been moved from the country to Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Irked by the perceived slow and inadequate response of the Federal Government to girls’ abduction, Nigerians across ethnic, religious and political divides employed the use of the social media to strengthen the campaign to rescue the girls.
The social media aspect of the global campaign has the hash-tag: “#BringBackOurGirls”.
“#BringBackOurGirls” protests across Nigerian cities soon went viral and ignited solidarity protests across major cities of the world, putting appreciable pressures on world leaders to act.
Following invigorated protests held in countries like the U.S., Britain and Canada; the international community became increasingly involved in efforts to liberate the girls.
Already, superpowers, including France, Britain, China, and the U.S., as well as Israel, Canada, Spain, Japan, among others, have all joined the crusade to rescue the girls.
U.S. President Barack Obama said: “Obviously, it’s a heartbreaking situation; outrageous situation. We’ve already sent in a team to Nigeria.
“They (Nigeria) have accepted our help through a combination of military, law enforcement and other agencies, which are going in and try to identify where these girls might be and provide them help.”
Addressing the British Parliament, British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the girls’ kidnap, saying: “This is not just a Nigerian issue; it is a global issue.
“I ’m the father of two young daughters and my reaction is the same as every father or mother in this land or the world.
“This is an act of pure evil; it has united people across the planet to stand with Nigeria to help find these children and return them to their parents.”
France is not left out in the growing campaign to liberate the kidnapped girls.
France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “The President (Francois Hollande) gave me and the defence minister the order to put our (intelligence) services at the disposal of Nigeria.
“He asked us to contact the Nigerian president to tell him that a specialised unit, with all the means we have in the region, is at the disposal of Nigeria in efforts to find and recover these young girls.”
Besides, Canada, through its Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr John Baird, described the girls’ abduction as “appalling” and pledged to work with Nigeria in efforts to rescue the girls and combat the Boko Haram insurgency.
“These acts are absolutely repugnant and will never be tolerated. We will closely monitor the situation and work with Nigeria to combat terrorism and secure the welfare of its children and youth,’’ he said.
The United Nations (UN) has also expressed its grave concern for the plight of the Chibok schoolgirls.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who conveyed the solidarity of the global community with the government and people of Nigeria, assured Jonathan of the UN readiness to help Nigeria in every possible way to rescue the girls.
The Chairman of ECOWAS, President John Mahama of Ghana, said that ECOWAS was invoking its protocols on counter-terrorism to support Nigeria’s efforts to rescue the abducted girls and stamp out terrorism.
President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed that the Federal Government had accepted some countries’ offers to help free the girls.
The president also held an enlarged security meeting with state governors, security chiefs and religious leaders to seek pragmatic ways of freeing the abducted girls and ending the Boko Haram insurgency.
A communiqué issued after the meeting read: “We agreed that the Boko Haram war is not a religious war and, therefore, it is a war against all Nigerians and should be treated as such.’’
The Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), an umbrella body for Muslimsm, in a statement by its Secretary-General, Dr Khalid Aliyu, described the kidnap as “barbaric’’ and called for concerted efforts to release the girls.
The Muslim Rights Concern and the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria stressed that the activities of the Boko Haram sect contradicted the tenets of Islam regarding the treatment of women and girls.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim, expressed support for the Federal Government’s invitation of foreign powers to assist in efforts to rescue the schoolgirls.
“ACF appreciates the assistance being offered to Nigeria by the U.S., Britain, China and other countries to rescue the abducted girls,” Ibrahim said.
Besides, the Northern States Governors Forum stressed that the Boko Haram insurgency would soon be over.
“The coming of the U.S. army to rescue the abducted Chibok schoolgirls was as a result of the meeting which the northern governors held with the American Government,” said the Forum’s chairman, Gov. Babangida Aliyu of Niger.
Also, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, at a recent summit organised by Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association in Abuja, called on all Nigerians to unite and fight against the Boko Haram sect.
“This is because terrorism does not know who is a Christian or a Muslim. What we need to do, as leaders at all levels, is come together to defeat terrorism,’’ he said.
Nigeria’s major opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), also drummed support for ongoing efforts to rescue the kidnapped schoolgirls.
The party described the Boko Haram insurgents as cowards for targeting unarmed civilians, especially women and children, and commended the Federal Government for its decision to accept foreign intervention.
A top APC chieftain, retired Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, condemned the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents and the kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls in particular.
His words: “That horrific video posted on the Internet is a clear manifestation of the mindlessness of the bigots.
“The abduction of the schoolgirls has underscored the threat we have been facing as a nation in recent times; the threat from the actions of misguided persons masquerading as adherents of Islam.
“Let these people know that the entire civilised world is united against their terrorist act. We are grateful to the world for standing by Nigeria at this trying time,” he added.
Also speaking, another APC chieftain, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, said: “We must make it clear that under no circumstances should any person, group of persons or organisation ever be permitted to prey on the children of Nigeria.’’
In a joint open letter, 46 eminent business, civil society and religious leaders from around the world called for global action and resources to rescue the abducted schoolgirls.
The signatories include a Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former Secretary-General, Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Salim Ahmed Salim.
The letter read: “We urge all local, national and regional governments, with the full support of the international community, to dedicate their expertise and resources to `BringBackOurGirls’.”
While Pope Francis asked the world to unite in prayers for the abducted schoolgirls, fasting and intercessory prayers were also declared by both Muslim and Christian groups for them.
“Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria,’’ Pope Francis wrote in the twitter.
Addressing a world press conference in Abuja at the end of the recent World Economic Forum on Africa, Jonathan, however, reassured parents and all Nigerians that the Chibok schoolgirls would soon be rescued.
He said: “We are quite pleased that the whole world is singing the same message that we must bring back our girls.
“I don’t sleep with my two eyes closed and I will not sleep with my two eyes closed until these girls are brought safely back to their parents.”
Earlier, Jonathan said, while declaring the forum open, that with the myriad support coming from countries and individuals across the globe, the days of Boko Haram were numbered.
“I believe that the kidnap of the girls will be the beginning of the end of terrorism in Nigeria,” he said.
Most analysts agree with the president’s sentiment that with the growing determination of Nigerians and, indeed, the whole world to unite in the campaign for the liberation the Chibok schoolgirls, the end of Boko Haram is nigh. (NANFeatures)