Nigerians demand government to do more to bring 230 kidnapped girls home
LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) — Nigerians took to the streets Thursday to demand the government do more to rescue scores of girls abducted by militants more than two weeks ago.
Militants seized about 230 girls in the dead of the night at a high school in the nation’s far northeast, a hotbed for Islamist group Boko Haram.
Armed men herded the girls out of bed and forced them into trucks on April 16 in the town of Chibok. The convoy of trucks then disappeared into the dense forest bordering Cameroon.
Nigerians have rallied for days to criticize the government’s handling of the rescue efforts. Hundreds wept and chanted “bring back our girls” during protests in the capital of Abuja on Wednesday. A day later, protesters gathered in Lagos.
Shortly after the abductions last month, frustrated Chibok residents went into the forest in motorbikes to search for the girls.
During their nine-hour trek, they never saw a single soldier in the forest where authorities believe the militants took the girls, said Enoch Mark, whose daughter and two nieces were among the kidnapped.
“A total of 230 parents registered the names of their daughters who were missing on the day of the kidnap,” said Asabe Kwambura, principal of the Government Girls Secondary School. “From my records, 43 girls have so far escaped on their own from their kidnappers. We still have 187 girls missing.”
In Chibok, angry parents accused authorities of playing politics with the lives of their children.
Witnesses have seen militants in dozens of vehicles headed to nearby Cameroon, said Ayuba Alamson, whose two nieces were among the kidnapped.
Nigeria’s Defense Ministry released a statement Thursday saying it is committed to continuing its search.
“A lot of information has been received in the efforts at securing the freedom of the girls. The Armed Forces assures all Nigerians that it will continue to appraise every information received during this operation accordingly,” it read.
“While it will not relent in its efforts in this search, the Armed Forces is mindful of the fact that some of the information with which it has been inundated are actually a ploy to distract it from its goal of dealing with terrorism and other violent crimes aimed at crippling the nation.”
Borno state Education Commissioner Musa inuwa Kubo similarly said that the government and military are doing whatever it takes to secure their release.
“This is a delicate situation that requires careful handling,” Kubo said. “When you have heavily armed men holding close to 200 girls hostage, you have to be very careful in your approach so as not to risk the safety of these girls you want to rescue.
He said authorities are withholding information for safety reasons.
“It is a security issue and we just can’t be divulging all the efforts we are making to get these girls freed,” the education commissioner said.
But angry Nigerians said authorities are not doing enough. They took to social media using hashtag #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters to demand more from the government.
David Peter, a sound engineer, music producer and recording artist in Lagos, sent CNN an iReport in which he calls on the government to do more.
“If you’re not safe anywhere in the world, you should be safe in your house, in your own back yard. We mandate the federal government to bring back our daughters, and our children,” he said.
Boko Haram’s name translates to “Western education is a sin” in the local language.
The group especially opposes the education of women. Under its version of Sharia law, women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write.
Rights groups say the militants kidnap girls to perform chores and sexual services.
CNN’s Vladimir Duthiers reported from Lagos, and Faith Karimi wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Antonia Mortensen, Nana Karikari-apau and Millicent Smith contributed to this report.