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June 02, 2014

Nigerian Governor Vows to Fight 'Madmen'

by Zlatica Hoke

Violent Islamic sect Boko Haram continues on its deadly path in northern Nigeria, holding more than 200 schoolgirls hostage and staging deadly attacks on cities and villages.  The governor of the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno says the toll on his state is high in terms of human lives and economic development.  But he says he is determined to fight what he calls "madmen" terrifying the region.

Protests are held daily in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, where activists say they want more government action to free the girls from the clutches of Boko Haram.

"I think of the girls and I think it could have been me. It could be," said Abuja resident Wasila Mohammed. "It could be my daughter. It could be my niece, you know.  It could be, it could be anybody and it's just think of, I think of the mothers and I think, you know what, we have to do this. We have to. Someone has to do it."  

Borno governor Kashim Shettima describes Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, as insane.  

"I see him as a madman, don’t take him as somebody with any sanity, any mental sanity," he said. "In this age and time, somebody is talking of selling the girls into slavery?  Can a reasonable, sensible person talk along that line?  For me, he is a madman."

Shettima says he is determined to stop the terror caused by the marauding militants over the past five years.  In the latest attack Sunday, a bomb believed to be planted by Boko Haram killed about 40 football fans in neighboring Adamawa state.  Shettima says the group of about 1,500 fanatics is holding communities in the entire region ransom.

"But I can assure you that they are not as many people as were made out to believe," he said.  "But because they are setting the pace of the war, they create a lot of havoc and that is precisely what they are doing, and they are not adhering to any international convention. They are just a bunch of raving lunatics, and they are hell-bent on a suicidal path."

The Borno governor says terror and violence has had a devastating impact on the state's economy.  He says his state, which borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon, is uniquely positioned for trade and investment.  But the fighting has all but halted the development of the necessary infrastructure, especially the roads.  He says the borders are closing and it will take time to repair Borno's image abroad.

"It’s very painful because Borno has been in the news for the wrong reasons for the past five years," Shettima said.  "Borno is the cradle of Islamic civilization in the West African region.  We have 1,200 years of recorded history.  It’s an insult to the integrity and the history of the people of Borno."

The United States has sent military experts to help track more than 200 Nigerian girls still held by the Boko Haram militant group.