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April 17, 2014

Officials: Nigeria Secure for Economic Forum Despite Attacks

by Heather Murdock

After the worst attack in Abuja’s history on Monday, officials say the Nigerian capital has been secured for the World Economic Forum for Africa next month. These comments come amid conflicting statements on the abduction of more than 100 schoolgirls, and ongoing violence in the north. President Goodluck Jonathan summoned his security council.
 
The Nigerian capital is simultaneously recovering from a bombing that killed 75 people in the suburbs on Monday, and preparing for the World  Economic Forum for Africa - which is expected to draw more than 1,000 delegates, including many heads of state.
 
Minister of National Planning Ambassador Bashir Yuguda said Thursday there is no need for concern. “Security will be beefed up. The security of the delegates coming -- Nigeria is guaranteeing their security. We will do the best we can as a nation to do that because it’s our responsibility to protect the lives of the delegates that are coming.”     

Emergency rule

Three states in Nigeria’s northeast have been under emergency rule for almost a year, after Jonathan said Islamist insurgents known as Boko Haram had captured territories, threatening the country’s sovereignty.
 
Initially, the military and police secured cities in the northeast, driving insurgents into the countryside and into the forest. The violence appears to be escalating, however, and rights groups say more than 1,500 people have been killed this year alone.
 
At this hospital in the capital, far from areas under emergency rule, patients recover from the bombing of the bus station on Monday. It was the largest attack in the city since the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, and the first in two years.
 
Like many of the victims, Sahadu is a civil servant who was catching a bus to work that morning. Also, like many of the victims, he said Boko Haram once was a northeastern issue, but the security crisis appears to be spreading.
 
The truth about the violence in the northeast, though, often is hard to discern.
 
Abducted schoolgirls

On Wednesday night, the Nigerian military said no more than eight of 129 girls who were abducted in Borno state Monday remain missing.
 
Other officials, however, say this is either untrue, or they have no knowledge of a rescue. On a scratchy phone line from a remote region in the northeast,Government Girls Secondary School principal Asabe Kwambura said, “We have not gotten any information that they have gotten the students yet. So all this information you got in the media is not true.”

The governor of Borno State, one of those under emergency rule, is offering a reward of about $300,000 for information leading to a rescue.

 "I want to assure you that we are willing to do anything to see that these innocent girls are rescued without any harm coming their way,” said Governor Kashim Shettima.

There were no initial claims of responsibility for the kidnappings. But the assault is similar to attacks that have been carried out by Boko Haram.
 
The group has been blamed for thousands of deaths in attacks on churches, schools, mosques, markets, government structures and security forces. The group says it wants to impose its harsh version of Islamic law, which includes banning all forms of Western education.

Abdulkareem Haruna contributed to this report from Maiduguri.