by Rachel Ogbu
The Islamic sect, Ansaru in Jama’are might have claimed to have killed all seven hostages in Bauchi but President Goodluck Jonathan recently announced that some of the foreigners kidnapped on February 7, could still be alive.
President Jonathan at a joint press conference with visiting Lebanese President Michel Sleiman said that the UK and other allies were working with the Nigerian authorities to rescue those still alive.
However, he added that if the worst scenario was confirmed and they were dead, he would insist on the recovery of their bodies.
Hostages Brendan Vaughan (British); Silvano Trevisan (Italian); Imad Andari (Lebanese); Carlos Bou Aziz (Lebanese); Konstantinos Karras (Greek); Ghaida Saad (F/Syrian); and Julio Alkhouli (Syrian) were reported killed by Ansaru terrorist group because they felt Britain and Nigeria tried to rescue them. The sect on March 9 also posted a video of what it said was the bodies of the foreigners on the Internet.
President Jonathan said Ansaru might have released some information through the social media but analysis of that information does not really give a conclusive position.
“On the kidnap, various nationals are involved and we have been working with our friendly nations, including the United Kingdom and others to see that these people are rescued.
“Because of the ugly experience we had when a similar situation happened and about the time we were to release the people, they were shot. The security services are being careful so that the hostages would not be killed.
“We discuss this everyday. We really suspect that some probably have died either from ill-health or other related causes but we still believe that not all the seven (have died) because even what we saw on the social media did not really show all the seven.
“So we are still working. I have briefed my colleague, the President of Lebanon, that we are still working on it and we will get to the root. If they are killed, I will insist that we must get their corpses.”
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Jonathan stated that security agents had been careful about the rescue process in order not to expose the hostages to danger like a previous scenario where victims were killed by their captors when efforts were being made to free them.
He also identified the difficult terrain of the place where the hostages are suspected to be kept as another major challenge being faced by security operatives.
The President said, “We discussed it (the issue of the foreign hostages). It is quite a sad moment in our history. The issue of excesses of Boko Haram and related organisations getting involved in terrorist activities, it is quite sad; it is a sad stage which we will pass through.
On whether the military in the two countries would collaborate on the matter, Jonathan said he did not discuss direct military pact with the Lebanese president for now.
He however said they agreed at the international level for Nigeria and Lebanon to work with the rest of the world to ensure that the excesses of terrorists worldwide were contained.
Sleiman whose visit to the country is said to be the first by any Lebanese President since Nigeria gained independence in 1960, thanked the Federal Government for its efforts to liberate the hostages.
He urged the kidnappers to set the hostages free immediately, saying their kidnapping would not serve any purpose.
“I agree with President Jonathan. I thank the Nigerian government for its efforts aimed at the liberation of the hostages. I hope the kidnappers will set them free immediately.
“These actions (kidnappings) are not efficient and they will not serve any cause, no matter how important the causes are for the perpetrators. On the contrary, they bring negative outcomes,” the Lebanese President said.
In a joint communique issued at the end of the presidents’ bilateral talks, the two leaders were said to have exchanged views on regional and international issues .
The two Presidents commended the longstanding people-to-people contacts between Nigerians and Lebanese and pledged to take measures to encourage such contacts.
While noting the significant roles played by the two countries in their respective regional organisations(Lebanon in the Arab League and Nigeria in the ECOWAS and African Union), they pledged to work through these institutions to support the United Nations in the discharge of its mandate.
They also lauded Nigeria’s exemplary role in contributing to the peacekeeping efforts of the UN.
Both leaders welcomed the ongoing efforts aimed at reforming the UN in order to equip it better to meet the current challenges in the maintenance of international peace and security.
In this regard, they called for an urgent reform of the UN Security Council to make it more democratic and reflective of the changes in the international arena.
The two Presidents also spoke highly of the friendly relations and cooperation between Africa and the Middle East.
On Guinea Bissau and Mali, they commended Nigeria’s role in helping to stabilise the situation in Guinea Bissau and in the pursuit of the noble objectives of dislodging terrorist groups from Northern Mali and to restore the territorial integrity of the country.
In that regard, the Presidents commended the efforts of the international community through the African Support Mission in Mali.
The communique added, “Both Presidents during bilateral talks noted the importance of economic and trade cooperation and urged their respective Ministers of Trade and Investment, Commerce and Industry to speed up their efforts to conclude the ongoing negotiations of the Trade and Investment Promotion Agreements for them to be signed as soon as possible.
“They acknowledged that the greater people-to-people contacts would provide a more solid inundation for strengthening of their relationship and deepening mutual understanding and friendly ties between the two countries and people’s.
“In that connection, the two Presidents noted the hospitality granted Lebanese nationals in Nigeria, many of whom have intermarried with Nigerians and have acquired Nigerian citizenship. They therefore urged that Nigerians in Lebanon be so encouraged to integrate with their hosts.
“President Jonathan and his guest also underlined their commitment to promote bilateral technical and capacity building and cooperation in the fields of agriculture and allied industry, trade and investment, culture and tourism, infrastructure development and public works, aviation and combating terrorism.
“President Sleiman extended an invitation to President Jonathan to pay a state visit to Lebanon, which was accepted. The date of the visit would be worked out through diplomatic channel.”
Sleiman had arrived the Presidential Villa, Abuja about 11am with top Lebanese government officials amidst a 21-gun salute.
The visiting President later inspected a guard of honour mounted by men of the Presidential Guards Brigade.