President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday said he believed that with the global efforts to find and rescue the over 200 girls abducted from their school by Boko Haram insurgents, an end to the reign of terror in Nigeria had begun.
Jonathan, who once again promised that the girls would be rescued, spoke at the opening session of the ongoing World Economic Forum for Africa in Abuja.
He thanked the foreign nations including , the United States, Britain, France and China for their support in trying to find and rescue the girls .
The President also lauded the delegates for coming to Nigeria despite the danger posed by militants, saying their presence was a big blow to terrorists.
Jonathan said, “Let me use this unique opportunity to appreciate all the countries that have expressed their commitment, especially in terms of rescuing these girls that disappeared in one of our secondary schools.
“The government of China promised assistance and I believe that assistance will come almost immediately. The government of the US, the UK and France have also spoken with me and expressed their commitments towards resolving this crisis in Nigeria.
“I believe that the kidnapping of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria.”
The President observed that if the participants had decided not no attend because of the negative news coming from the country, the terrorists would have jubilated and be further emboldened to carry out more attacks.
He said, “Nigeria is proud to host this event for the first time the conference is coming to West Africa. Let me use this unique opportunity to appreciate you for accepting to come. As a nation we are facing attacks of terrorists.
“Let me appreciate you individually and collectively for your support for us, your sentiments and by your presence here in Nigeria at this time. You have already supported us to win the war on terror.
“If you had refused to come because of fear, the terrorists would have jubilated and even committed more havoc. But your coming here to support us morally is a major blow to terrorists.”
During another session of the event tagged, “Unlocking job-creating growth,” where he served as a panelist, Jonathan identified one of the greatest challenges currently facing Nigeria as insecurity , especially in the North-East.
He said though Nigeria did not expect terror, his administration was working hard to build capacity and put the situation under control.
Jonathan said although it was impossible to give a timeline on when peace would be restored, there was hope for the country.
The President disclosed that he recently gave an approval for $1bn to be spent on the purchase of some equipment needed to fight terror war.
He said, “The first time a Nigerian was involved in terror was in December 2009 when a young Nigerian who grew up abroad wanted to bring down a plane that was going to the US.
“The reaction of Nigerians then was that that was strange; that it was because he grew up outside the country and came from a very wealthy family. So, it was not an issue of poverty but an issue of extremism.
“We never knew that we were really moving into crisis. It is a phenomenon that was never part of our problems.
“So it takes time for you to train the people; it takes time for you to build the security architecture and that is what we are improving on every day.
“Not too long ago, I gave an approval of over $1bn for us to acquire what we require. That is just not enough but that is just an example and it is of recent.
“I can guarantee that we shall bring this(terrorism) under control. Yes, it is difficult for any nation to say that it has the magic to wipe away issues of security challenges otherwise , a place like the US ,with the money and technology, people wouldn’t have been shot there as we hear every time.
“No one President can say yes, in a year or in a month there will be absolute peace but we are working hard. We are training our people and we are building capacity. And of course, we are getting assistance from other places that have experienced terror attacks.
The founder of WEF, Klaus Schwab, during the plenary said participants by their attendance had spoken with one voice that terrorism would never dictate the agenda for economic development.
“We cannot allow terrorism to dictate our agenda. For this reason, I am grateful to you because I know some of you hesitated. I am very thankful that only few people cancelled their participation. Again I thank you for supporting this programme,” Schwab said.
He called for a one-minute silence in honour of victims of terrorists in Nigeria and particularly in solidarity with the government in its efforts at bringing back the abducted schoolgirls.
On the purpose of the event, he said it was WEF’s belief that economic growth without social stability and inclusion would not be sustainable.
He also argued that social development would remain impossible without economic growth.
During the session, Jonathan said that job creation in Africa was compounded by huge youth population.
“Job creation is one of the concerns that keep me up at night,” the President said, adding that because of this, Nigeria’s budgets were structured in a way to provide employment opportunities for youths.
He said his administration was also providing an enabling environment for the private sector to participate in job creation.
The President regretted that the recent rebasing of the country’s Gross Domestic Product which placed Nigeria’s economy as the best in Africa had not translated into into job creation.
The Premier of the Peoples Republic of China, Mr. Li Keqiang, who is the special guest at the forum, described Africa as a continent on the rise.
Keqiang promised that his country would increase its financing in Africa.
Specifically, he said his government would put additional $2bn into the China-Africa Development Fund to make it $5bn among other grants he announced at the event.
While describing Chinese cooperation with African countries as sincere and open, he said China would offer scholarships and training of professionals in Africa.
“We will continue assistance to Africa both in quantity and quality. We will direct over half of China’s foreign assistance to Africa. There is no political strains attached to our support,” he added.
A statement made available to journalists after the session,said Jonathan met with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle; the President of Ghana, Mr. John Mahama; President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo; and the the WEF founder.
According to the statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, Jonathan met behind closed doors with Entwistle on the sidelines of the WEF over the modalities for the actualisation of the offer made by President Barrack Obama to assist in rescuing the schoolgirls.
Abati quoted the President as reiterating Nigeria’s appreciation of the US offer to deploy security personnel and assets to work with their Nigerian counterparts in the search and rescue operation, which was conveyed to him on Tuesday by the US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry.
The statement reads in part, “President Mahama informed President Jonathan that to support Nigeria’s efforts to rescue the abducted girls and defeat terrorism, ECOWAS leaders have decided to invoke the community’s protocols on counter-terrorism.
“The Ghanaian leader said that a meeting of Heads of Intelligence Services of ECOWAS member-countries will hold in Accra next week to work out a new framework for intelligence sharing in support of the effort to eradicate the threat of terrorism in Nigeria and the entire West African sub-region.”
Abati said the President also met with former President Lula Da Silva of Brazil and the Prime Minister of Mali, Mr. Moussa Mara, also spoke on the telephone with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon.
Ban, according to him, conveyed the sympathy and solidarity of the global community with the government and people of Nigeria.
He said the UN chief assured the President that the organisation was ready to help Nigeria in every possible way to rescue the girls and achieve greater security of lives and property in the country.