Africa

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Government has no idea where kidnapped 'daughters of Nigeria' are

Clare Cullen

Published 08/05/2014 | 02:30

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Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: AP
Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: AP
Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: AP
Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: AP
Nigeria

Protest leader arrested after calling on President Jonathan's government to do more to recover the 279 teenage girls abducted from their school by Boko Haram insurgents.

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Boko Haram insurgents claimed responsibility for the abduction of over 270 schoolgirls in Northeast Nigeria last month, and more this week, when leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to "sell them in the market" in a video sent to the Associated Foreign Press.

The group stormed an all-girls secondary school in Chibok on April 17, bundling 279 teenagers onto trucks and disappearing along the border of Cameroon. The group is also believed to have carried out a bomb blast on the same day which killed 75 people on the edge of the Nigerian capital Abuja, in the first attack in over two years.

Boko Haram claims to be fighting to reinstate a 'medieval Islamic caliphate' in northern Nigeria – an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph.

The government's handling of the situation has been described as "embarrassing".

During a televised interview, President Goodluck Jonathan pledged that the girls would be returned to their parents, stressing that "extra troops had been deployed", but later admitted in the interview that he had "no idea" where the girls were.

Protests have been held in the capital, urging the government to do more to find the stolen girls. One of the leaders of the protests was 'detained' for 'falsely claiming' to be the mother of one of the missing girls.

Fellow protester Lawan Abana, whose two nieces are among the abductees, denies that the protester made this claim.

"When we say 'bring back our daughters' the campaign means it in the broader sense of 'daughters of Nigeria'," Abana said. "They are so clueless".

First Lady Patience Jonathan denied reports that she ordered the woman's arrest following a meeting with some of the campaigners. In a statement she requested an end to the protests.

"You are playing games. Don't use school children and women for demonstrations again. Keep it to [the state of] Borno, let it end there," the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria quoted her as saying.

The government is worried that the scandal over the missing girls will overshadow the upcoming World Economic Forum, which was intended as an opportunity to "focus attention" on the growth potential of Africa's biggest economy. Security at the Forum will involve 6,000 army troops.

Twitter: @Clisare

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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