Vice-President Namadi Sambo
Nigerian-Americans ask Jonathan, US to free kidnapped girls
Nduka Nwosu in New York and Jaiyeola Andrews
Vice-President Namadi Sambo Tuesday expressed the deep concern of the federal government over insurgency in the country and the abduction of the students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
He noted that government was anxious to put an end to the menace. This came as Nigerians and their sympathisers yesterday gathered at the front of the Nigerian Mission in New York to protest the abduction of 180 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State by members of the Boko Haram.
The protesters also insisted on the cancellation of the World Economic Forum (WEF) begins today in Abuja. About the same time, a Washington-based pressure group, BringBackOurGirlsDC, was organising a similar rally at the premises of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, which according to their statement was to “pressure idle government officials to take measurable actions to save the newly estimated 276 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in the north eastern Nigerian village of Chibok.”
Sambo spoke when the Canadian Minister of International Development & La Francophonie, Christian Paradis, paid him a courtesy call in his office in Abuja.
He lauded the continued excellent relationship between Nigeria and Canada, stating that the issue of security, maternal and child welfare, power and solid minerals development, conduct of free, fair and transparent elections in 2015, were in the front burner of the administration’s transformation agenda.
He admonished Nigerians that “as we approach elections, we should not play politics with serious matters of state such as security and pleaded for support and assistance from Canada in areas of surveillance equipments and other vital security hardware that would enhance Nigeria’s capacity to address insurgency.”
The vice-president craved for support in addressing other international crises, such as those of Southern Sudan, Kenya and the Mali.
He assured the international community that like the 2011 election, the 2015 election would be free, fair and transparent as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was working round-the-clock to ensure the success of the exercise.
He also assured the Canadian envoy that the Anti-gay Act was not enacted to violate the rights of any Nigerian who and that Nigerians are seeking asylum in Canada on violation of their fundamental human rights were doing so on false claims, noting that the religious nature of Nigerian society was responsible for the enactment of such a law.
He directed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassaor Aminu Wali, the supervising Minister of National Planning, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda, and the Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada, Chief Ojo Madueke, to liaise with Canadian institutions that are ready to partner and support Nigeria in developing her extractive industry.
Earlier, Paradis had remarked on collaboration between Nigeria and Canada in fighting terrorism, strengthening bilateral relations on major issues, foreign investment agreement and on the long-standing partnership on the maternal and child welfare to ensure that the most vulnerable people were reached. He also remarked on the preparation of February 2015 elections and the need to collaborate to ensure the success of its conduct, while also noting the Same-Sex Law which he posited should not be used to affect people’s fundamental human rights and the need to ensure that the mining sector was a blessing to the people.
Meanwhile, addressing the New York rally, the Executive Director of the Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum (NDLF), Bukola Oreofe, said it was unacceptable that after 22 days, these girls are being held hostage in the forest and President Goodluck Jonathan was unable to give direction regarding what is going on. “He has to call off the World Economic Forum going on in Abuja.”
Oreofe said: “We categorically demand from President Jonathan to bring back the girls, he either has to step up or step down. America has to come and assist Nigeria. America cannot afford to close its eyes on this ugly situation. We do not even know the al Qaeda angle to all this.”
Asked about the consequences of using force to avoid extra-judicial killings and doing harm to the girls, Oreofe said the issue on ground was to free these girls.
“Boko Haram,” he argued, “did not start today and because the government has not been able to penetrate the terrorist camp, things have gone from bad to worse.”
Oreofe said the President Barack Obama administration used covert measures to take out Osama bin Laden in spite of the negative consequences.
On whether there was a political undertone to the activities of the group, Oreofe said he was not aware of this but that Boko Haram had killed over 7,000 Nigerians.
“People can choose to do what they want to do but the buck stops at the President’s table.”
Addressing the rally, Yuhanna Edwards, Councilman of the City of Mount Vernon in New York, pleaded for unity among Nigerians because, he added, the unity of Nigeria is the unity of Africa and the unity of Africa is the unity of the black race all over the world, adding that a shot gun was not needed to do this but a strategic plan in the short and long term.
Placards read: “Over 200 girls abducted. This is no Goodluck, this is Badluck. ‘Bomb blast in Nigeria, President Jonathan Dancing in Kano,’ ‘America and World Leaders Please Bring Back Our Girls,’ ‘President Jonathan, Step up or Step dow.”
In her contribution, Attorney Ifeoma Odunlami, expressed sadness that the only problem of these girls was the risk they took to be educated adding, “we are here to put pressure on the Nigerian government to bring back these girls. They are still in the forest because they are considered insignificant. It is not enough to set up committees and arrest people who are protesting. Jonathan should rise up.”
Another speaker lamented: “Nigeria’s problems are Africa’s problems, therefore the United Nations, the US and other countries must rally round us. This is the worst thing that can happen to any parent. We must bring these girls home safely.”
Executive Director Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), Olaolu Akande, said he was at the rally to express his dismay and disappointment at what was happening because there was a total breakdown of basic security infrastructure in the country.
“Our security infrastructure is being abused and as I speak to you, the update is that 16 more girls have been kidnapped.
“This is unacceptable, government is full of promises, promises and there is speculation people were really arrested for protesting in Abuja. The real enemy is Boko Haram and government is not doing its job.
According to Akande, the first attempt at kidnap by Boko Haram was April 15, 2012 when Deborah Shettima’s husband was murdered in her presence and her two daughters aged seven and nine abducted till now. The same terrorists came back three months after and shot the son. We are saying today, enough is enough. Why is Boko Haram controlling three states in the North?”
BringBackOurGirlsDC said insufficient response from the federal government in the two weeks following the abduction prompted organisers to plan a public demonstration demanding that the Nigerian military and police uphold their duty to deploy search and rescue efforts
The rally organizer, Lola Akande, added: “Following the march in Abuja, BBC News Africa reported that more than 20 senators requested a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan. No details of their
discussions are known yet, but this action suggests forward progress made by government officials.”
In Washington, D.C. the protesters hoped to incite similar political action from the Ambassador to the United States, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, and his colleagues at the consulate.