Dozens of protesters gathered outside Nigeria’s parliament yesterday to call on security forces to search harder for more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militants more than two weeks ago.
Scores of suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed a girls' secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, on April 14th, packing the teenagers onto trucks and disappearing into a remote, hilly area along the Cameroon border.
The demonstrators, including pregnant women, relatives of the girls and civil servants, waved banners saying: “Bring back our girls”.
“If 230 girls can go missing for this long and nobody knows how to find them, then something’s very wrong with our country,” said Tokumbo Adebanjo (45), a travel agent and mother. “I feel the pain of those other mothers. Obviously the government are not doing their job.”
Scale and brutality
Boko Haram rebels have killed thousands in the past year. The scale and brutality of the school attack shocked a nation long used to hearing about atrocities in an increasingly bloody, five-year-old Islamist insurgency.
President Goodluck Jonathan has said security forces are doing all they can to find the girls, who are aged between 15 and 18.
“All the girls must be brought back alive in the shortest time possible and only then will we believe them,” said Lawan Aban, a lawyer who has two nieces and a sister missing. “We have lost faith in the Nigerian authorities.”
The demonstrators began their march outside the Hilton Abuja, where in a week's time Nigeria will be hosting the World Economic Forum.
On the day the schoolgirls were seized, a bomb blast also blamed on Boko Haram killed 75 people on the edge of the capital Abuja, the first attack on the city in two years.
As speculation about the girls’ whereabouts grew, senator Ahmad Zannah from Borno state said in parliament on Tuesday that the girls had been taken as “wives” by Boko Haram commanders.
A military source involved in the hunt for the girls said they were believed to be in the Sambisa forest, a known Boko Haram base.
Halilu Chibok, whose daughter is among the rebels, said his wife cried all the time and could no longer eat after hearing her daughter may have been married to a militant.
“Why can’t the government invite other countries to help?” said the chairman of the school’s parents association, Dumona Mpur. “If the world can search for a missing Malaysian [airliner], why can’t the president ask them to help look for these children?”