The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, on Monday called for the unconditional release of the abducted pupils of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
The over 200 girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents on April 14, 2013. They were seized from the hostel at night and had not been set free since then notwithstanding the global outrage the incident had provoked.
Ki-Moon spoke in Abuja while addressing State House correspondents shortly after having a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa. The meeting with Buhari was part of the activities lined up for the UN chief’s two-day visit to the country.
Ki-Moon’s call was made same week the kidnapped girls will be marking their 500 days in captivity.
He said that he discussed with Buhari issues leading to the violence being perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect in the North-East zone of the country and beyond.
He said, “I express my solidarity again with the Nigerian people that the United Nations will work together to address the encountering extremism and terrorism.
“This week marks the 500 days of the kidnap of the Chibok girls. I want to reiterate my support for the Chibok girls and so many other innocent abducted girls and boys whose names and fate remain unknown.
“It is intolerable that their lives and schooling have been disrupted in this way. The whole world has been moved by their fate.
“I once again call with the strongest terms on those responsible to unconditionally release these girls and many other abducted children.
“Terrorism knows no boundary and no bounds. Today, I laid the wreath in memory of Nigerians and other victims.”
The UN scribe noted the regional engagement efforts being made by Buhari to tackle insurgency and expressed the hope that the rapid operational direction of the Multinational Joint Task Force would go a long way in tackling the insurgents.
He recalled that Buhari had in his inaugural speech recognised that human rights are important parts of the counter-insurgency response, adding that operations should be conducted with the full respect for rights, humanitarian and refugee law.
He however added that military operations alone would not be sufficient.
Ki-Moon added that he also discussed with Buhari efforts at addressing the causes of insurgency by tackling social economic grievances in the North-East particularly through expansion of educational and employment opportunities for young people.
He said there was an agreement by UN member-states on the Sustainable Development Agenda and on the Adis Ababa Action Agenda that would provide further financing to help Nigeria in its agenda for change.
The UN scribe said, “The humanitarian situation in the North is particularly worrisome, we are working with partners on ground to scale up humanitarian operations.
“I congratulate President Buhari on the efforts to protect and uphold the rights of displaced persons.
“I pledge the full support of the United Nations to advance the shared and universal cause of peace, development and human rights.”
He commended the President, who, he said, had embarked on an agenda for change thus prioritising security and anti-corruption war.
He promised UN support for the President’s agenda, saying that by changing Nigeria Buhari would be changing Africa.
He said, “President Buhari has embarked on an agenda for change and I commend him highly for prioritising insecurity, anti-corruption and unemployment issues.
“My message is simple: United Nations supports your efforts to advance hope, peace, sustainable development and human rights in a comprehensive way.
“I am convinced that when you change Nigeria, you have changed Africa. Nigeria has been a source of stability in West Africa and the wider continent.
“You have been a key contributor to UN peace- keeping operations, including its successful mission in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“Nigeria is once again playing a crucial role in the UN Security Council over which Ambassador Joy Ogwu is now presiding.”
Buhari, on his part, said they discussed the difficult time Nigeria had found itself.
He said the step was taken so that the UN could assist the country.
He thanked Ki-Moon for extending invitation to him to attend the UN General Assembly holding in New York on September 27and 28.
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, later on Monday said the President had accepted Ki-Moon’s invitation to the New York meeting.
The meeting is expected to formulate a fresh plan of action against extremism.
Shehu said US President Barack Obama and President Francois Hollande of France are also expected to participate in the September 28 meeting. He said the UN scribe also invited Buhari to a meeting of a select group of 25 world leaders in New York on September 27 to deliberate on a global climate change agreement.