A protest in the Nigerian capital of Abuja (Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)
Cities across Nigeria have seen hundreds of protesters over the last couple of days marching to demand the government step up its efforts to rescue the hundreds of schoolgirls who were kidnapped more than two weeks ago in the remote northeastern town of Chibok.
Yesterday, a group of mostly women assembled in the rain to march on the National Assembly in the capital city of Abuja, BBC reports. The protesters there delivered a letter of complaint alleging the government wasn't doing enough to secure the release of the students.
Today, parents of the missing girls held their own protest in Chibok. "We want our daughters back. We want the United Nations to come and assist in rescuing our daughters. Through this march, we want to tell the whole world that we need their help to secure the release of our daughters," Enoch Mark, whose daughter and two nieces were abducted, told AFP. Another mother said, "Death is preferable to this life of misery we have been living since their abduction. We call on our government to sit up and rescue our girls."
And in Lagos, the country's largest city, AFP reports that police fired tear gas to disperse a group of protesters.
The demonstrations come on the heel of disturbing unconfirmed reports from family members that the kidnapped students were being sold for 2,000 naira ($13.50), and that some of them had been trafficked into Cameroon and Chad. The precise number of kidnapped girls is disputed, with Borno state authorities claiming 129 were taken and local officials claiming the number is more like 230 (one report in the New York Times was as high as 275).
No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, although the Islamist group Boko Haram is widely believed to be responsible. Boko Haram (whose name means "Western education is forbidden") has been waging a campaign for years to establish Islamic law in Nigeria, and is particularly active in the country's northeast.
Hadiza Bala Usman, the leader of the Abuja protest, told the New York Times that the Nigerian government was not showing sufficient concern over the kidnapping. “If this abduction of 236 girls happened anywhere else in the world, the nation would be at a standstill,” she said.