Ezrel Tabiowo Ayodele Adegbuyi
The Senate has urged President Goodluck Jonathan to declare war against terrorists in the country just as it condemned in strict terms the recent abduction of 234 secondary school girls in Chibok, Borno state, by men believed to be Boko Haram members.
The Senate, in resolutions adopted yesterday sequel to a motion considered, also urged the federal government and the security agencies to intensify efforts at rescuing the hapless girls, as well as seek the co-operation and aid of other countries and international security institutions to deploy advanced technological measures, including dialogue, towards rescuing the teenagers safely.
The call to declare war on Boko Haram was made by Senate President David Mark in an address to welcome lawmakers back from a two-week recess.
Senator Mark, who warned politicians to desist forthwith from resorting to destructive partisan politics that engage inciting remarks, said doing so does the country no good but rather encourages acts of terrorism and demoralises the nation further amidst the recent tragedies.
He said: “There is no doubt that our nation is at war. The enemy has clearly and unequivocally served the nation notice of its vile intentions. Therefore, a clear, unambiguous and decisive military response from the government, beyond the imposition of a state of emergency, is urgently required in this circumstance. This is an option we must consider now.
“It is obvious that we are dealing with insurgents and well-funded nihilists who are determined to violently trample upon the secularity of the Nigerian State and destroy the country. A modern, vibrant,
progressive, multi-ethnic, multi-religious Nigeria is an anathema to them. Because they are fired by zealotry and extremism, they are not likely to be swayed by overtures of any kind. We must henceforth shift from fighting terrorism to fighting insurgency.
The angry Senate President added: “Emphasis must, therefore, be on winning the hearts and minds of the communities in the immediate theatres of conflict. The full might and strength of our security
services must now be deployed to confront this scourge and we expect our security services to rapidly reorient their assets and capabilities so as to overcome this difficult challenge. And this must be done within the shortest possible time-frame with minimal casualties.
“Let me emphasise that for them to achieve this they require the cooperation of all and sundry.”
Mark also called on the government to do all it can to immediately identify the sponsors and the source of funds to the terrorists and the insurgents.
“Nobody who is implicated, no matter how highly-placed, should be treated as a sacred cow,” he said.
The Senate president further pledged that the National Assembly would continue to co-operate and work with all arms of government and the people to bring this unwarranted assault on Nigeria’s peace and unity to a swift end.
This, he stated, would be activated in the deployment of every possible constitutional legislative instrument in aid of the war against terror.
Condemning the inciting remarks credited to some politicians in the country recently, Mark sent a strong word of caution that asked politicians to desist from speaking along party lines.
He said: “The tragedy is that at a time of grave national emergency like this when every Nigerian should stand in unity and openly rebuke evil, some of our countrymen and women, unfortunately, only see this as an opportunity for partisan politics. Appallingly, rather than condemn in the strongest possible terms they have resorted to destructive partisan diatribes that can only demoralise our troops and the nation and encourage the insurgents.
“When a nation is faced with clear and present danger, what is required is a bipartisan approach and a show of support for the government and the security services.
“In other democracies where terrorism has been confronted with substantial success, bipartisan support for the government’s counter-insurgency policy and war efforts have proved vital to lasting success. We must recognise these attacks as an egregious assault on the Nigerian way of life, and a signal threat to her corporate existence.
“We must not quibble, nor speak along party lines. We must speak out as Nigerians, and collectively we must flash a powerful signal against terror. Our instinctive patriotism should be on display and we must rally bipartisan support for government to confront terror.
“This was what the Americans and the British did in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 7/7 London bombings.”
He continued: “It is dispiriting that at the peak of bombings, abductions and senseless killings by insurgents, rather than stand together as Nigerians, some people are speaking along party lines, scheming and viewing anarchy from the prisms of partisanship. This is condemnable and totally unacceptable.
“We should not sell the truth to serve the hour. And the truth is that Boko Haram has declared war, not just on the present government, but on any government founded on the principles of democracy, secularity and tolerance.”
During consideration of a motion on the abducted school girls, senators unanimously condemned the abduction and took turns to lament the failure and inability to curtail acts of insurgency in the country.
One of such lawmakers, Senator Ahmed Zanna (PDP, Borno), lamented that despite concerted efforts made to inform the security agencies on themovement of the abductors, no timely move was carried out to act on information received.
He informed the upper chamber during plenary that the girls were split by the insurgents and eventually married off in neighbouring countries like Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Zanna said: “I have been constantly in touch with the security agencies, telling them the developments, the movement of the girls from one place to the other and then the splitting of the girls and eventually the marriage of these girls by the insurgents.
“What bothers me most is that whenever I informed where these are, after two to three days, they would be moved from that place to another and still, I would go back and inform them that ‘see, this is what is happening’. I lost hope two days ago when I found out that some of them were moved to Chad and Cameroon.
“Actually, some of them move through the Mandara Mountain that is in Gwoza and some of them are just a stone throw from their barracks. Even now as I am talking to you, in Cameroon, because it is in Kolofata, which is in Cameroon, about 15 kilometres or even less to the borders. Because one of the insurgents called somebody in Bama and said I just got married and said I am now settling in Kolofata and then three or four days ago, some Fulani men reported that they saw some girls being taken by boats into the island in Lake Chad and that some of them happened to be between Marte and Mungonu, maybe. Maybe those ones might still be within Nigeria but that is the current and new base of the insurgents. They just took over that place less than a week and that village is called Chikungudua. The place is the constituency of Senator Maina Ma’aji.
“But I informed the security agents about the situation and from that place, they can just go into the Lake (Chad) and go to either Chad or Cameroon because it is very open, there are no weeds in the lake and so they can go to anywhere.
“They have snatched all the boats around that area, including the one for NNPC and so they are free to go anywhere without being chased by anybody.”
In a related development, the House of Representatives yesterday summoned the Service Chiefs and the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Alex Bade, to know the action taken so far to free the girls.
An attempt by Sadiq Mohammed to make the House issue a seven-day ultimatum to the Service Chiefs, the director-general of the Directorate of State Security, and the Comptroller-General of Immigration to either resign of find the girls was rejected by members who voted against it.
The House also asked the government to enlist the assistance of some foreign countries to tackle the issue at hand.
This followed a motion on matters of urgent public Importance moved by Peter Biye Gumptha, urging the House to prevail on the authorities to secure the release of the girls.
He lamented the fact that the parents of those abducted girls were yet to receive any reliable information from the security agencies on the whereabouts of their children.
Members like Samson Osagie (Edo, APC), Andrew Uchendu, Abubakar Momoh, Bitrus Kaze and Nnena Ukeje, who contributed to the debate on the motion, urged the security agencies to expedite action in rescuing the girls.