President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday paid a surprise visit to Maiduguri, Borno State, one of the three North-Eastern states worst hit by Boko Haram insurgency.
Jonathan embarked on the trip shortly after laying a wreath at the National Arcade, Abuja in commemoration of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day.
There had been clamour for him to visit the zone since April 14 when over 200 schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok by the sect.
Critics also chided the President for continuing his presidential campaign without visiting or not making a direct comment on the January 3 killings in Baga and Doron Baga in Borno State by Boko Haram.
Amnesty International had said on Monday that reports it got from the locals showed that over 2,000 people were killed and their houses razed. But the Defence Headquarters in Abuja denounced the international human rights agency’s claim, saying about 150 people died in the attacks.
Before the Thursday visit which came barely a week ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party presidential rally scheduled to hold in Maiduguri on January 24, the United States denounced the latest Borno killings as “an enormously horrendous slaughter of innocent people.”
At the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army at the Maimalari Cantonment where he met with the officers and men currently in the frontline of the war against terrorism, Jonathan thanked them for their patriotic service to the nation.
He assured them that the nation would soon see the back of the Boko Haram insurgents as the military were now better equipped to take them on.
The President said that the briefing from the service chiefs showed that the 10 local governments in the state under Boko Haram control would soon be recaptured.
“Let me assure you that we will soon take over all the areas. From the briefing I have received from the service chiefs, I assure you that we will take over the towns and communities, “ he added.
Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, later issued a statement in which he quoted the President as telling the soldiers that the nation was proud of them for their commitment to the defence of the civilian population against terrorists.
Describing the troops as a special breed of men, the President assured them that all necessary action was being taken to address challenges facing them in their operations against Boko Haram.
“In terms of equipment and logistics, we have already made considerable progress since the insurgency started and we will continue to improve in that regard until your operations are successfully concluded,” he told the soldiers.
Abducted Chibok girls
Abati said that Jonathan also toured wards of the 7 Division Hospital and Medical Services Centre where he met with soldiers recovering from injuries sustained in operations against Boko Haram and wished them a speedy recovery.
Before leaving Maiduguri, Jonathan was also said to have visited over 900 displaced persons from Baga at the Maiduguri camp.
Abati said the President sympathised with the displaced persons over their losses during the attack on them by Boko Haram.
According to him, Jonathan promised them that the Federal Government would strive to make their stay in the camps more comfortable while it continues to do all within its powers to restore peace and security to enable them to return to their homes soon.
The statement by Abati quoted Jonathan as also saying, “Terrorism and insurgency have been very traumatic for all of us. I feel particularly disturbed when I hear of our people being displaced within their own country.
“I assure you and other displaced persons that government is working very hard to ensure that you do not remain in these camps for too long.
“I know that many of your houses have been destroyed. We will assist you financially so that you can rebuild your homes and return to them gradually,” the President told the displaced persons.
The President also thanked the Red Cross and other international organisations for assisting in the provision of relief materials to the displaced persons.
He charged local, state and Federal Government officials to work in unity in rendering support to the displaced persons.
“I do not want to be hearing conflicting reports on support being given to them. Government is one and we must all work together to assist our people whenever the need arises.
“We must cooperate maximally and work together at the local government, state and federal levels to ensure that our people who are unfortunately displaced from their homes get the best possible treatment,” Jonathan said.
The Chief of Army Staff , Lt Gen Kenneth Minimah, said the President’s visit was significant since January 15 is the day set aside for remembering fallen heroes.
Also on the Presidential entourage were the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Muhammad Sani-Sidi.
We’ll crush Boko Haram, others
The United States President, Barack Obama, and British Prime Minister, David Cameron, have vowed to defeat Boko Haram and other terrorist organisations killing innocent people across the world.
They said in an article published on the United Kingdom Government website on Thursday, that “barbaric killers and their distorted ideology,” would be exterminated.
“Whether we are facing lone fanatics or terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda, Islamic State (ISIL) or Boko Haram, we will not be cowed by the extremists,” the two leaders wrote on the website,www.gov.uk.
They added, “ We will defeat these barbaric killers who try to justify the murder of innocents, whether children attending school in Peshawar, or girls forced to become suicide bombers in northern Nigeria.
“When the freedoms that we treasure came under a brutal attack in Paris, the world responded with one voice. Along with our French allies, we have made it clear to those who think they can muzzle freedom of speech and expression with violence that our voices will only grow louder.”
Obama and Cameron stated that there were more than one billion Muslims in the world, majority of whom are “sickened by the evil these terrorists claim to perpetrate in the name of Islam.”
They said that their countries would continue to work closely with all those who believe in peace and tolerance.
The leaders recalled that “200 years ago this month, Britain and the US fought each other at the Battle of New Orleans,” adding that that “was the last major battle where our nations met as enemies.”
They said that “in modern times, our special relationship as allies and partners has been the firm foundation of our shared security and prosperity.”
Cameron and Obama added, “Together we defeated the Nazis and hunted down the core al-Qaeda leadership. Our scientists collaborate to transform our world, from discovering the double helix blueprint of life to creating the technologies that power our digital age.
“Our businesses, investors and entrepreneurs fuel the largest foreign direct investment relationship between any two countries in the world.”
They however admitted that the progress achieved so far was not guaranteed.
The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, had also on Thursday described the massacres in Baga and Doron Baga near Lake Chad by Boko Haram on January 3 as a “crime against humanity.”
Kerry, who addressed journalists in Bulgaria, said, “What they have done with respect to the slaughter recently is a crime against humanity nothing less.
“It’s an enormously horrendous slaughter of innocent people and Boko Haram continues to present a serious threat not just in Nigeria and the region but to all of our values and all of our sense of responsibility regarding terrorism.
“Boko Haram is without question one of the most evil and threatening terrorist entities on the planet today”.
Kerry said he had discussed with the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, — who was also in Sofia — the possibility of “engaging in a special initiative with respect to Nigeria and with respect to Boko Haram.”
Meanwhile, a former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has urged world leaders to unite against Boko Haram’s use of schoolgirls as suicide bombers.
Brown, who is a United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, also said the actions of the insurgents contravened known conventions protecting the rights of children.
SOURCE: The Punch