Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets of the Nigerian capital Wednesday for yet another demonstration to demand accountability and action from the government to locate the hundreds of schoolgirls who were abducted more than two weeks ago. No group has taken responsibility for the mass abduction, but the girls taken were from a state school in an area where the Islamist group Boko Haram has been active for years.
“We are trying to bring the plight of the Chibok girls to the attention of the government,” the protest leader, Hadiza Bala Usman, told the New York Times. “We see the Nigerian government not showing enough concern.” The protests have been organized and largely dominated by Nigerian women -- some are mothers of the missing girls, others are friends, neighbors or strangers galvanized by the tragic and terrifying news of the abductions.
“Two hundred thirty-six girls were abducted in an area where there is emergency rule,” she added. “It brings to mind a lack of commitment by the army.”
Angry at the lack of government action to find the girls, many have began to search on their own.
“We were more than two, three days in the bush, looking for our daughters,” a father of one of the missing girls told the Times. “But we were told, ‘If you enter this area they will bomb you, they will kill you.'”
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The girls are believed to have been split into groups, a local official said Wednesday, citing villagers who saw them. Some may even have crossed the border with Cameroon, he said.
“These people have been moving around with these girls,” said Pogu Bitrus, chairman of a development association for the Chibok area. “So their location cannot be determined. People have sighted the terrorists moving around with them in parts of the Sambisa Forest, and even in Cameroon.”
Villagers also told Mr. Bitrus that some of the girls had been “auctioned off to Boko Haram members for 2,000 Naira” — about $12.
Members of Parliament contend that some girls have been forced into marriage by Boko Haram militants. A cousin of some of the kidnapped students said in a phone interview that some hostages had been forced to cook for their abductors, while others had been asked to fetch water. “They were assigned to various housewife tasks, asked to fetch wood,” he said.
The cousin, who asked that his name not be used, said the town was in despair. “It’s a pathetic situation, helpless. They are crying and praying to God to save their daughters. If it was your child, how would you feel?”
Ms. Usman, the protest organizer, said the demonstrations in the capital would continue.
“If this abduction of 236 girls happened anywhere else in the world, the nation would be at a standstill,” she said.