Maiduguri: President Goodluck Jonathan is expected today in the traumatized town from which Islamic extremists abducted more than 300 schoolgirls a month ago, a visit that one community leader says is "better late than never."
It is the first reported visited by the president to the scene of an attack in the northeastern region that has suffered for five years the increasingly deadly assaults by Nigeria`s homegrown Boko Haram terrorist network. Jonathan, a Christian from the south, has been accused of insensitivity to the plight of the mainly Muslim northerners. Thousands have been killed over the years and more than 1,500 civilians have died in the insurgency this year alone.
Residents of the town of Chibok where the girls were kidnapped from have expressed anger at the slow response of Jonathan`s government and the military`s failure to rescue the girls. Last week the militants threatened in a video to sell the girls and young women into slavery unless the government frees detained insurgents. British officials say Jonathan has told them he will not consider an exchange. National and international outrage over the girls` plight likely prompted Jonathan to belatedly accept international help in the search last week.
The United States this week started flying aircraft over the area in search of the girls, US officials said. Residents of Chibok have not seen any planes, said community leader Pobu Bitrus. The girls are likely in the vast Sambisa forest which begins 30 kilometres from Chibok.
He told The Associated Press that residents expect Jonathan today and are not bitter about the belated attention.
He pointed out that the Nigerian leader may have been misled by politicians and his wife who have suggested the kidnappings did not happen or were engineered to embarrass Jonathan and his administration.
People "are just expecting him. We don`t take offence in this part of the world if something is late," Bitrus said by telephone from Chibok. "The president had information earlier contradicting what happened, but this visit is better late than never."