— 7 more students escape from abductors
— School Ameera among kidnapped girls
Alhaji Kashim Shettima yesterday described the last one week as his worst time since he became governor of Borno state in May, 2011.
This is as seven more girls reportedly escaped from the Boko Haram captivity, bringing the total number of those found to 52, leaving 77 still missing.
In his Easter message released by his spokesman, Alhaji Isa Gusau, the governor attributed his dismay over the abduction of school girls in the early hours of last Tuesday at Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok in Borno state.
He said though he had witnessed many dark days of the insurgency inherited by his administration, none of the attacks had been more troubling for him as that of the young girls’ abduction by deadly insurgents who are believed to be confining them to a forest.
Shettima said: “I have seen very serious moments since I became the governor of Borno state in 2011 at a period of insurgent crisis. I have seen many innocent lives lost for no reason and I mourn every life lost with empathy and high sense of responsibility. But the last one week has been my worst days as a governor and even the worst in my life.
“I am troubled as a father, as a leader and as a politician. First, as a father, any time my young daughter comes around me in the last one week at the Government House, my heart beats very fast, my heart becomes so heavy and I develop serious headache because when I look into the eyes of my young daughter, I wonder how the parents of these our students feel when faced with the harsh reality that their loving daughters are either in the hands of abductors in fear and desperation for freedom or wondering somewhere looking for safety while parents do not know the status of their children.
“I took a sympathetic note of one particular parent who reportedly said he preferred seeing his daughter’s corpse than the trauma of having her abducted. It is my very strong hope that all the students will come out of abduction safely. But as a father to a girl child I know exactly what is currently troubling the minds of parents and relations who are yet to see their children, I am deeply pained and I very much share the agonies of parents.
“More than everyone, as the leader, on whose area of governance this unfortunate incident took place, I am very anxious to have our daughters freed because I know very well that the most important obligation of any government – be it at the federal, state or local government level – is to ensure the safety and welfare of its good citizens.
“Every good citizen deserves safety as a fundamental human need and right under a democratic system of governance. As a leader and politician, I am also troubled that I have not had the important opportunity to meet the anguished parents of these girls in Chibok because I have, on a number of instances, been advised to hold back the trip in order not to interrupt security operations as well as search and rescue efforts which are our topmost priority, especially now.
“I am very much aware that Chibok is one of our communities with high population of our Christian parents,brothers and sisters. It is therefore easy for unpatriotic and divisive elements to make issues out of the delayed visit for whatever motive that will be unhelpful. As a leader, I have always believed and displayed fairness to all citizens regardless of ethno-religious backgrounds.
“I hold that the Borno state government has a responsibility towards every citizen of the state, young or old,irrespective of religion, ethnic group or place of origin. I very much share the grief of parents and the entire people of Chibok. We must at this time strengthen the Borno blood that exists among us to work towards the freedom of our daughters.
“The insurgents threatening us target us irrespective of our religions. I am also very much aware that the girls abducted consist of not just those with origins traced to Chibok but also from other parts of the state and the country which is typical of a good secondary school that should unite Nigerians.
“I am also aware that the abducted students include both Christians and Muslim faithful. I am made to understand that the Ameera (spiritual head) of the Muslim Students Society in the school is among those abducted and yet to be freed. She was abducted alongside her Christian and Muslim colleagues without the insurgents worried about the religion any of the students practice.
“We must therefore remain united in our shared grief to pray vehemently for our girls as well as the patriotic security agencies and civilian volunteers currently in relentless search and rescue efforts. Between last night and this evening, seven more girls escaped from captivity, bringing to 52 the number of those with us out of 129 students that were at the hostel on the day of that attack. This means 77 students are yet to be found.
“I once again call on parents and guardians like we have been doing, to return any student that might have run home on the day of that attack, so that we can take records to ascertain our missing students. So much is being done by rescue teams, there is very high commitment on the part of the federal, state and Chibok local government authorities in working for the freedom of these innocent daughters of ours that are future leaders and mothers of future leaders.
“I call on our Christian parents,brothers and sisters to use the Easter period to intensify prayers for the freedom of our daughters, the return of peace in Borno and rest of Nigeria. I also urge all of us to sacrifice our time to support grieving parents and relations.
“We should be our brothers’ keepers in sacrifice and forgiveness, which is what the Easter symbolises.
“I pledge the resolute commitment of my administration to the search for peace and sustainable progress and count on the continued support and prayers of all citizens so that together we make Borno great again”.