Tears and grief marked the Childrens’ Day celebrations in Enugu yesterday, as thousands of primary and secondary school children wept openly while praying for the safety and speedy release of the over 200 female students of the Government Secondary School, Chibok abducted by Boko Haram insurgents on April 14.
The children roused the audience at the Michael Okpara Square venue of the event with the passionate words of prayer they voiced out while raising their hands towards an imagined direction of Sambisa forest (where the Chibok girls are believed to be held) and beseeching God to send his angels there to rescue their colleagues.
They also carried placards denouncing the abduction of the schoolgirls and calling for their immediate release and the cessation of harassment of school children and their teachers in the northern part of the country.
Led in prayers by the State Chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Rev. Godwin Madu and the State Secretary of Christian Association Nigeria, Rev. Emeka Ejim, the children emphasised that there was no room for celebrations of this year’s event since their abducted colleagues were still going through the horror of captivity in the custody of the terrorists.
They called on the government to intensify efforts to ensure the quick release of the captives while finding ways to prevent such occurrences in the future.
Amidst flowing tears, Miss Precious Ede, who prayed on behalf of the children said
, “We did not come here to celebrate; rather we came to express our anguish at the continued plight of our mates in the hands of the Boko Haram people. We came to seek God’s intervention so that they can be freed because just like us, they committed no crime by going to school. We are confident that God will answer us because even as we are praying, we know that His angels are already at work in Sambisa Forest or wherever our mates are being held.”
The traditional march past by schools in the State however took place after the prayers.
Presenting the address of President Jonathan on the occasion, Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, denounced the abduction of school children and the rampant bombing and burning of schools leading to the closure of some schools and colleges in the North Eastern part of the country.
While sympathizing with the parents of the abducted Chibok girls and with all Nigerian children and their families over the untimely death of innocent children of federal government college, Buni- Yadi in Yobe State, the Governor who was represented by the State Commissioner for Education Professor Christopher Okoro , said the government would do all within its power to protect children from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation
“We cannot stand by and see schools shut down, children denied education and parents living in morbid fear of safety of their children. This is an obligation we owe our children in conformity with the rights guaranteed them in our 1999 constitution, the Chlld Rights Act 2003 and other international treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is signatory”.