The United States of America leads a global alliance to help Nigeria combat Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and also rescue about 234 female students abducted from their hostels in a government secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, since April 14
| By Olu Ojewale | May 19, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
IT HAS been three weeks of nightmares, uncertainty, frustration and intense pressure in Nigeria followed by global outrage occasioned by the abduction of 234 girls of Chibok Government Secondary School, Borno State, on April 14. The abduction of the girls triggered off a series of protests in many parts of Nigeria and in some foreign countries, with the protesters demanding that world leaders should act quickly to rescue the girls. In Nigeria, protests demanding the release and rescue of the girls had become a daily occurrence in the last two weeks. Also in Britain, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the Nigerian High Commission in London, on May 4, chanting, “Bring them back!” and “Not for sale!” There were similar rallies on Saturday, May 3, in Los Angeles and London as well.
Apart from protests, the Twitter hash-tag: ‘#BringBackOurGirls’, has become a global means of putting pressure on the world powers to take drastic actions to rescue the girls. The twitter has also provided an avenue for prominent world leaders to lend their voice and support to the demand for the release of the captives. Hillary Clinton, former United States secretary of state, tweeted on May 4: “Access to education is a basic right & an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls. We must stand up to terrorism.” That was the message of Nicole Lee, outgoing president of the TransAfrica Forum, who said on a Cable News Network, CNN, news programme: “We need to take ownership as if this happened in Chicago or this happened in Washington, D.C. We need to be talking about this. I think people are doing that. It’s catching fire.” Michelle Obama, US first lady, also joined in, tweeting: “Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It’s time to #BringBackOurGirls.”
The United Nations on its part, wrote a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan and members of the international community stressing the urgent need to rescue the abducted girls. In the letter, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged President Jonathan to take steps to rescue the 276 (police figure) pupils. Pillay said failure to protect the girls was a violation of human rights. She also warned Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram leader, against selling the girls, as he had threatened, because it would amount to crimes against humanity. The UN High Commissioner made her position known in a statement in Geneva through Rupert Colville, her spokesperson. The statement said: “We are deeply concerned about the outrageous claims made in a video believed to be by the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria yesterday, in which he brazenly says he will sell the abducted schoolgirls ‘in the market’ and ‘marry them off’, referring to them as ‘slaves.’ We condemn the violent abduction of these girls, reportedly at gunpoint from their school in Chibok in Borno State in North-Eastern Nigeria.
“We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law. These can, under certain circumstances, constitute crimes against humanity. The girls must be immediately returned, unharmed, to their families.” The UN high commissioner who signed the letter along with seven human rights organisations, “reminded the Nigerian Government of its legal responsibility to ensure that girls and boys have the fundamental rights to education and to be protected from violence, persecution and intimidation.”
Overwhelmed by the weight of local and international pressures, Nigeria, in apparent state of helplessness and frustration, turned to the international community and pleaded for assistance from friendly countries to enable it to successfully rescue the abducted girls. Speaking on CNN on Monday, May 5, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, said Nigeria needed international assistance to track the terrorists and get the girls released “because you are dealing with people that you don’t know, and you don’t know…what they might do to these girls.” The minister said she always felt sad that government had not been able to rescue the girls, but insisted that the government remained committed to finding the girls, but should have done a better job explaining the situation to the public. “Have we communicated what is being done properly? The answer is no, that people did not have enough information,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
That perhaps prompted President Goodluck Jonathan to cry out for international assistance during his presidential media chat on Sunday, May 4. He seized the opportunity to inform the nation that Nigeria had enlisted the support of many countries in its efforts to tackle the security challenges in the country. “We have been talking to heads of states from countries that could help us. From the beginning of this crisis, the United States has been assisting us. I have personally made requests to President Obama. I have always asked them to send their people to come and join our troops and see what we are doing. Don’t just sit there and say that we are committing human rights abuses. We have been talking with the Prime Minster of UK (United Kingdom), Premier of China and others.
“They have been helpful one way or the other. We have been making requests and will continue to make requests. We are trying. The security and intelligence services are trying and if you have been working in places like Yobe, Damaturu and others, you will see what is happening. There is only one Nigeria on earth. Even if it is one person that is being killed by this madness called Boko Haram, I feel pained.”
The president’s campaign paid off. On Tuesday, May 6, in a dramatic turn of events, John Kerry, United States secretary of state, called President Jonathan on phone to communicate President Barrack Obama’s offer to help Nigeria to rescue the abducted girls. A statement by Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, on the acceptance of the offer, disclosed that the assistance would include the deployment of US security personnel and assets to work with their Nigerian counterparts in the search and rescue operation.