Wednesday, April 30, 2014 5:01 pm
Several hundred women and men, mostly dressed in red, today marched through Abuja in the rain to the National Assembly carrying placards that read “Find Our Daughters.”
It was a protest organised to demand the government and military do more to rescue scores of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists more than two weeks ago.
Dubbed “a million woman march”, turnout was affected by a heavy rain in the capital.
The march was however promoted on Twitter under #BringBackOurGirls.
Protest organiser Hadiza Bala Usman had earlier told AFP that the size of the protest was less important than raising awareness about the plight of the hostages whose April 14 abduction at gunpoint from their school in the northeast has outraged Africa’s most populous nation.
“The government has to understand that we are not going to allow this silence to continue,” Usman said.
In the northern city of Kano, roughly 100 people dressed in black marched towards the state governor’s office, calling for the girls’ immediate release.
The mass kidnapping in the Chibok area of northeastern Borno state was one of the most shocking attacks in Boko Haram’s five-year extremist uprising, which has killed thousands across the north and centre of the country.
The principal of the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, where the girls were kidnapped said that 230 teenage students were taken away and that 187 are still being held hostage.
The leader of Chibok’s elders forum, Pogu Bitrus, told AFP that he had received information indicating the girls were trafficked into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad and sold as brides to insurgents for 2,000 naira ($12).
Former World Bank vice president Obiageli Ezekwesili, also an ex-Nigerian cabinet member, has emerged as a leader of the #BringBackOurGirls movement and addressed protesters at Unity Fountain in Abuja as the march kicked off.
She accused the military of having “no coherent search-and-rescue” plan.
“We are going to the National Assembly because that is where each of these girls has a representative,” she said.
Bitrus said it was “unbelievable” that the military, which claims to be working around-the-clock to find the hostages, had not yet tracked down any of the kidnappers.
Locals have scoured the bushlands of the remote region, pooling money to buy fuel for motorcycles and cars to conduct their own rescue effort.
Usman condemned what she called the official complacency which has followed the abductions.
“If this happened anywhere else in the world, more than 200 girls kidnapped and no information for more than two weeks, the country would be brought to a standstill,” she told AFP.