Four sick Chibok girls released By Boko Haram sect
Four of the over 200 students abducted by the Boko Haram sect at the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, have been released over ill health.The Chairman, Chibok Local Government Council, Mr. Bana Lawan, disclosed this in Abuja yesterday.
He spoke at a one-day stakeholders meeting for validation of draft humanitarian response plan for the abducted girls.
The meeting was organised by the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.
He said the girls were released on Tuesday to bring the number of escapees to 57.
Represented by the Director of Personnel and Management, Mr. Musa Kolo, the chairman said the girls fell ill in captivity and were released by their captors.
Lawan commended Nigerians for their concern and support for the Chibok people, saying it had restored the hopes and aspirations of the people for the return of peace to the community.
He also praised the Federal Government's prompt intervention through the provision of relief items for the people.
The LG boss however urged the Federal Government to resuscitate the facilities destroyed by the insurgents and improve security in the affected school to boost the morale of the students.
Lawan explained that boys were encouraged to attend GGSS in Chibok because of the lack of education facilities in the area and appealed for the construction of boys' hostels in the school.
He said the construction of the hostels would reduce the hardship faced by the students who attend school from afar.
Lawan, who also decried the poor health facilities in the area, appealed for the deployment of medical personnel and teachers to the area.
He said the deployment of National Youth Service Corps members to the area would boost the educational and health needs of the people of Chibok.
Earlier, NEMA Director- General, Alhaji Mohammad Sani-Sidi, said the meeting was aimed at strengthening the coordination mechanism for humanitarian response in Chibok.
'While the Federal Government is working towards the safe release of the abducted girls, it is important that a sectoral response plan is prepared for their rehabilitation and reintegration back to normal life.
'The objective of the meeting is to integrate all sectoral response plans into one holistic multi-sectoral response plan to avoid duplication of efforts,' Sani-Sidi said.
He said NEMA and other actors had intervened in the crisis occasioned by insurgency in Chibok by providing food and other items, water and medicaments for the affected people.
Also, the UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Dr. Dauda Toure, said the organisation had mapped out a $75m intervention plan for states affected by the state of emergency in the North- East.
According to him, the UN system in Nigeria has developed an integrated response package to address the humanitarian needs in Chibok.
He said the UN's intervention would include health, peace and conflict resolution, water and sanitation.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, also yesterday, cautioned the Federal Government against the use of force to rescue the abducted schoolgirls.
This is contained in a statement by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
It urged government to negotiate and agree to the option of prisoner swap as demanded by the sect.
According to MEND's statement, the swap deal is the only viable option for peace and a ceasefire.
'From our experience, it is impossible for any forceful commando-type rescue in forests or creeks to be successful.
'The Israelis encouraging such a move should understand that Sambisa Forest is a different kettle of fish from Entebbe International Airport,' it said.
In another development, at least, 51 persons have been killed by the deadly sect in fresh attacks on villages in Borno State.
The terrorists killed 42 civilians at Gurmushi village in Marte Local Government, while 12 others sustained gunshot injuries.
The entire village, our correspondent learnt, was set ablaze by the attackers, leaving many of the villagers displaced and now taking refuge in Cameroun Republic.
A resident, Mallam Abacha Umar, said the gunmen invaded the village, killing and maiming the people in the early hours of yesterday.
Another resident, who spoke to the BBC Hausa Service monitored in Maiduguri, said she fled from the village to neighbouring Cameroun, adding that 42 people were killed, while 12 injured people are currently receiving treatment at a Camerounian hospital near the border.
She said they had all fled the village to Cameroun for fear of another attack by the Boko Haram terrorists as, according to her, they had intensified their attacks in the area in recent times.
Also yesterday, the terrorists attacked Amuda and Arbokko border villages, killing nine residents.
They were alleged to have invaded the village in Toyota Hilux vehicles, motorcycles and an armoured personnel carrier, APC.
Eyewitnesses said the gunmen came through the 16-kilometre Kughum-Pulka border road at 2am and stormed the two neigbouring villages, firing indiscriminately at fleeing residents.
'I cannot imagine how I escaped the attacks. It was God that saved my life; otherwise I would have been shot dead in my burnt house.
'The gunmen were after males that tried to challenge them from carrying out their self-acclaimed work for God. Two of my neighbours were shot at their backs and legs, while fleeing their houses, while others fell to the ground with sustained injuries,' Pirda Takweshe, a resident of Amuda who escaped to Pulka, said yesterday.
Meanwhile, the former head of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau of the United States State Department, Daniel Benjamin, yesterday identified Boko Haram as the deadliest terrorist group in the world today.
The US security expert also said that the Taliban in Afghanistan was now second to the Islamic sect.
Ambassador Benjamin spoke in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, while delivering a lecture at the 2nd International Conference on Democracy and Good Governance, with the theme, 'Nigeria's democracy: Issues and challenges'.
He warned that the threat by the Boko Haram insurgents to attack some cities in southern Nigeria must be taken seriously.
Benjamin's paper was entitled: 'Nigeria security challenge and its implication for internal, Africa and transatlantic relations'.
He disclosed that Boko Haram attained the status overtaking the Taliban group in Afghanistan when it was observed that the terror group killed at least seven persons in every of its attack in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria.
He, however, said despite the activities of the sect, Nigeria could not be ranked among war-torn countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Benjamin said: 'By 2012, Boko Haram was the second most deadly terrorist group in the world after Afghanistan's Taliban as Taliban killed more people than Boko Haram then.
'Presently, Boko Haram is the deadliest terrorist group, killing at least seven persons per attack. Boko Haram has already become a major menace to countries like Cameroun, Niger, as well as Chad. They are well funded and well armed.'
In his lecture entitled, 'Nigeria's Democracy: Issues and challenges', The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Centre for Value and Leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi, said no regime could not succeed without legitimacy, adding that democracy sustained legitimacy.
The Federal Government also yesterday dismissed reports that the Boko Haram sect had captured a village in Borno State and consequently hoisted their flag as a sign of territorial independence.
The Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at a media parley, insisted that security forces would not allow such situation to happen.
'I can tell you that the military as a security agency will not allow any strange flag to be hoisted in any part of the country.
'It is our duty to defend the territorial integrity of this country, and we will not allow any portion of this country to hoist strange flag and be sure that such plans will not succeed', he said.
The insurgents, according to a report, on Monday hoisted their flags in Ashigashiya ward and other hilly border villages with Cameroon Republic.
Olukolade also debunked rumours of a division within the military, saying there was a high-level inter-unit cooperation.
'There was an allegation that when one unit is facing an attack from insurgents and they call on other unit for help, they refused to back them up. There is no such gap as it is being alleged. Troops on ground or air are very responsive,' he said.
Olukolade added that 'such thing never happened and when it is found, the system knows how to take care of it.'
Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, yesterday declared that the Al-Qaeda network had invaded the country.
Badeh made the disclosure in Abuja when the Social Welfare Network Initiative, SWNI, a coalition of civil society organisations and community based nongovernmental organisations in Nigeria visited him.
He said that the Nigerian military was not only at war with the dreaded Boko Haram sect presently, but also with the global terrorists' network.
The CDS added that the military and the Federal Government were in a serious war that was now far bigger than confronting the Boko Haram, stressing that the Al-Qaeda were now fully in charge of terrorist activities in the country.
He, however, assured that despite the 'formidable nature of the global terror network', Nigeria would defeat them and the kidnapped Chibok girls rescued.
Badeh also warned those attacking the military morale to desist, stressing that the scathing attacks and unconstructive criticisms could be counter-productive and impact negatively on the security of the country.
Meanwhile, the President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, CRCN, Shehu Sani, yesterday, confirmed the role he played with a freelance journalist, Ahmed Salkida to free the abducted Chibok girls, which was later cancelled by the Federal Government.
Sani disclosed this in a statement to National Mirror.
'This statement is in response to the reports and the enquiries on the Abeokuta meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and some family members of the Boko Haram group.
'This is to confirm that the meeting actually took place and I was part of it.
'The meeting was solely aimed at exploring the possibility of opening a new channel for dialogue or negotiation with the sect members towards securing the release of the abducted Chibok girls held in captivity for over one month. The meeting appraised the reportedly collapsed backdoor deal that was later cancelled by the government.
'I wish to also confirm that the report of the intervention of Mr. Salkida in negotiating the release of the Chibok girls is credible. I personally introduced Salkida to the government and spoke about him in many of my previous interviews.
'He has tried his best in the past and of recent to help in resolving the insurgency through dialogue but was on all occasions frustrated by the government. Mr. Salkida should not be vilified but should be appreciated. Mr. Salkida's attempt could have actually seen to the release of the abducted girls.