Dozens of protesters who gathered outside Nigeria’s parliament on Wednesday called on security forces to increase efforts to search for 200 schoolgirls, who were abducted by Islamist militants in the war-ravaged northeast over two weeks ago.
Scores of suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed an all-girls secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, on April 14, 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.” The somber mood of the rally was accentuated by torrential rain that drenched everyone.
“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.”
Boko Haram rebels have killed thousands in the past year.
The scale and brutality of the school attack shocked a nation long accustomed to hearing about atrocities during the increasingly bloody, five-year-old Islamist insurgency.
The abduction has also become a symbol of the military’s impotence in protecting civilians against Islamist insurgents, whose attacks appear to be getting less discriminating.
President Goodluck Jonathan has said security forces are doing all they can to find the girls, 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, one of Africa’s most expensive hotels, where in a week’s time Nigeria will be hosting the World Economic Forum under tight security, to be maintained by 6,000 soldiers.
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