A GLIMMER of hope appeared on the horizon for the abducted students of Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok Local Council of Borno State as 80 of them were reportedly rescued Wednesday morning by a vigilance group, local hunters and soldiers.
The joint security team pursued the insurgents in search of about 100 school girls they abducted.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government Wednesday confirmed that it had little information on how to rescue the kidnapped students as their whereabouts is unknown.
In a related development, the Borno State Government Wednesday pledged the reward of N50 million for any information that could lead to “immediate safe release” of the abducted female students.
Governor Kashim Shettima made the pledge at a news conference at the Government House, Maiduguri, adding that he had instructed security agencies to ensure that the school girls are rescued unharmed.
Similarly, civil society delegation to the National Conference has called on the Federal Government to close the borders between Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun due to the lingering insecurity.
In the same vein, about 20 villagers, including a monarch, were killed after gunmen, suspected to be Boko Haram terrorists, attacked two villages in Borno State on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, security sources and witnesses said.
The insurgents, who were carrying the school girls in Tipper lorries, were alleged to have got stuck in the bush while they were trying to crossover some muddy area between Chibok and Askira/Uba.
In a report by a local website, Nigerian Eye, the father of one of the rescued girls, Malam Ali Iliya, said his daughter told him that when the trailer got stuck, some of them jumped out and ran for their lives.
“They were scattered in the bush when the vigilance group and local hunters found them. Some of them were wounded, some were with fracture, which I believe was as a result of jumping from the high vehicle, but we are happy that our children have been rescued.
“Now, we are praying for those who are still with the Boko Haram; our prayer is that every father will have his child back”, he said.
He added that his daughter, Hajara, was sound and healthy but weak, stressing that “our children told us that when they started running, the insurgents didn’t shoot them.
“They allowed those who could run to go but those who could not run either as a result of fear or wound are still with them in the bush. My daughter said the abductors were over one hundred and that the girls were 243; she said the insurgents asked them to count themselves.”
A statement by Director, Defence Information/Co-ordinator, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, collaborated the online report as he said that more of the abducted students were Wednesday freed as troops pursuing the terrorists close in on the den of those believed to have carried out the attack.
The statement said that in another development, troops deployed to restore law and order in Wukari, Taraba State, have apprehended 14 armed men who were involved in the fighting during the civil disturbances in the town early in the week. The fighting resulted in the burning of no fewer than 25 houses and displacement of over 200 persons.
He said: “The troops also captured a building where arms were being fabricated. Four locally-fabricated machine guns, one sub-machine gun, 4 single barrel guns as well as 21 live cartridges were recovered in the process. Normalcy has since been restored as troops maintain patrols of the locality.
Meanwhile, security forces have been directed to continue with the tempo of offensive on all the terrorists’ enclaves anywhere in the country.”
Yesterday’s meeting, according to Maku, was devoted to the Monday’s bomb blast at the Nyanya motor park on the outskirts of the federal capital city where 75 people were officially confirmed to have lost their lives and over 126 persons sustained various degrees of injury.
Information Minister, Labaran Maku, while briefing State House Correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to protect lives of all Nigerians irrespective of where they live.
Maku, who addressed the media alongside his FCT and Minister of State for Health counterparts, Bala Mohammed and Dr. Khaliru Alhassan in that order, however slammed the media for what he described as insensitive reportage of the Nyanya bomb blast.
Maku said that the Council has not been given full detailed reports on the kidnapping but stated that efforts are on to set the school girls free even as he condemned the idea of resorting to kidnapping innocent school children who are defenseless.
His words: “The criminality of kidnapping young children is what makes the terrorism in Nigeria as one of the worst. What will they be doing with these young children if they claim that their purpose is on religious piety. Unfortunately, this has happened but we will make sure that we get the children back. We will make sure that further harm is not done to these children.”
He added that because there are schools spread across the zone, it was therefore not physically possible for adequate security to be concentrated in every school all over the North-East, adding that although this has happened, government will make sure that less harm comes to these children.
“We assure Nigerians that we will make sure that we get those girls back quickly. Our most important concern is to make sure that further harm is not done to those children. We are pushing their abductors and we will get them very soon”, he said.
Maku, who addressed the bomb blast incidence and its reportage, said that FEC deliberated on the way the media reported the incident, especially with the show of the gory pictures of the victims, which he noted, was not professionally handled.
“Let me also say that we observe with regret that in spite of the great job the media has continued to do, we saw that the way this incident was reported in the last two days has been very insensitive.
“One of the things that we will require to avoid as much as possible is that we should avoid negative comments that will discourage security agencies.”
He added that the nation’s victory over terrorism will depend on how united the people are to confront the issue, adding that “what terrorists want is to divide the people and make them helpless.”
The conference delegates in a statement by its leaders; Femi Falana, Abiola Akiode and Jaye Gaskia respectively, expressed worries over the level of insecurity in the country, stressing:” We are concerned about the deepening sense of hopelessness among ordinary Nigerians with respect to the security situation in the country.”
In solidarity with other delegates to the National Conference who have unanimously passed strongly-worded resolutions on the issue, the civil society delegates condemned the perpetrators of the attacks on Nigerians, especially the Monday bomb blast in Nyanya near Abuja.
While condoling with the families who lost their loved ones, the delegates noted with disapproval continuous attacks on school children and the abduction of young girls by the insurgents. It, therefore, called for immediate overhaul of the security forces.
“For a country that has been buffeted by such acts of terror on such a magnitude in the past few years, we condemn without hesitation the absolute absence of preparedness capacity on the part of emergency services to deal with the aftermath of the Nyanya bomb blast. We note that victims, both the dead and survivors, were transported on the back of trucks, pick-up vans, and even wheel barrows. The emergency services were simply not prepared and were overwhelmed with the scale of the catastrophe.”
“We note that such an incident occurred despite the several check-points between Nasarawa State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and condemn the apparent failure of intelligence and the seeming continued lack of co-ordination among the armed and security forces.”
“Furthermore, we are deeply worried about the ease with which insurgents in very visible convoys enter into communities and unleash such violence on innocent citizens without detection by security and armed forces. In particular in this regard, we note the continuous attack on schools and the massacre of children and abduction of young girls by these enemies of humanity who have decided to wage an unrelenting war on the poor”, the statement read.
Given that according to our constitution the duty of the state and any government is to ensure the security and well-being of citizens, the delegates therefore, urged the Federal Government to immediately ensure “the complete closure of the borders with Cameroun, Chad and Niger Republics; the immediate deployment of security personnel and the armed forces, along with the deployment of modern surveillance technology to monitor and patrol our borders; immediate overhaul of the security and armed forces to refocus and reorganise the war against the perpetrators of terrorism.”
In one of the attacks, the gunmen on Wednesday morning at about 7.00 a.m. stormed Wala Village, killing 18 villagers and injuring several others.
Wala Village is in Gwoza Local Council, some 130 kilometres southwest of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
A local council official, who does not want to be named for security reasons, said: “We are in difficult times in Gwoza Local Council; deaths and killings have become a daily affair; 18 people were killed in Wala this morning by the Boko Haram gunmen.”
A senior officer of the Department of State Security Service, (DSS) also confirmed the killing in Wala; but asked not to be quoted.
“We have just received the report from our officers in Gwoza that the Boko Haram gunmen had attacked Wala village and killed 18 poor souls there; it is rather unfortunate and sad development despite our efforts up here”, he said.
The DSS officer also confirmed that some 12 hours earlier, another set of gunmen attacked Sabon-Kasuawa Village in Hawul Local Council, 210km south of Maiduguri, where they killed a local monarch district head and his guard.
A politician, Hyeldi Bwala, confirmed on phone that the gunmen attacked the monarch shortly after he returned from the mosque where he went to observe the Tuesday night prayers at about 7.30 p.m.
“They simply walked right into the palace and shot him in his bedroom. And on their way out, they also shot his guard before fleeing into the dark night”, said Bwala.
Wala Village is also about 130 kilometres away from Chibok town where over 100 secondary school girls were abducted on Monday night.