Relatives of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls call for foreign help
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Little apparent progress has been made in the search for more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls believed to have been abducted by Boko Haram militants three weeks ago, leaving increasingly desperate parents demanding answers from the authorities.
Now, frustrated by the lack of progress in the search for the missing schoolgirls, relatives are calling on the Nigerian government to bring in assistance from overseas.
"By all means, let’s get the support we need from global players," Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former World Bank vice president who has joined protests against the government’s perceived inaction over the abductions, said in a televised interview Saturday.
"What these women are saying is that they want their daughters freed," she added.
Ezekwesili was speaking at a sit-in protest organised by dozens of mothers and women in the capital Abuja in support of the release of the more than 200 schoolgirls still believed to be held by Boko Haram Islamists.
"We need the support of other nations. We cannot just continue to be big brother for nothing," said another woman protester.
The students, aged between 15 and 18, were seized at gunpoint on April 14 after insurgents stormed a school in Chibok in the northeastern state of Borno.
Tanko Lawan, Borno state's police commissioner, told the BBC Friday that 223 girls are thought to still be missing, while 53 had escaped.
Authorities had originally given a much lower figure for the number of students abducted, but this has been revised upwards several times since.
Reports this week indicated some of the students have been forced into “marriage” with their extremist abductors, who paid a nominal bride price equivalent to $12. Other reports that also could not be verified said some have been taken across borders, to Chad, Cameroon and to an island in Lake Chad.
‘What they are doing to rescue our daughters?’
Anger has grown at the way the military and administration of President Goodluck Jonathan have handled the search for the schoolgirls, and protests were held in at least three cities earlier this week.
Nigerian mothers on Saturday vowed to hold more protests to push a greater rescue effort from authorities.
"We need to sustain the message and the pressure on political and military authorities to do everything in their power to ensure these girls are freed," protest organiser Hadiza Bala Usman told AFP.
She said that women and mothers will on Tuesday march to the offices of the defence minister and chief of defence staff "to ask them what they are doing to rescue our daughters".
"We believe there is little or no effort for now on the part of the military and government to rescue these abducted girls, who are languishing in some dingy forest," she said.
On Sunday, President Jonathan held closed-door talks with military and security service chiefs as well as senior officials including Borno state's governor and police chief and the head of the school in Chibok where the girls were seized.
It was the first time the Nigerian leader had brought together all key players involved in the search.
"The president has given very clear directives that everything must be done to ensure that these girls must be brought back to safety,” spokesman Reuben Abati told reporters after the meeting.
The Nigerian government has said it also plans set up a committee, presided over by a senior army general, to advise it on a mission to secure the release of the girls.
But a father of one of the abducted girls in Chibok dismissed the effectiveness of this step.
"Our frustration is increasing with every passing day...why can't the government seek assistance from other nations?" asked the parent, who demanded anonymity.
"Government sets up committees but the findings and recommendations of such committees are never implemented. This committee set up will not be different from other ones."
Foreign assistance in the search for the missing schoolgirls could come from the US, with Secretary of State John Kerry stating that the country was ready to assist Nigeria in any way necessary.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)