Women in Borno State have accused President Goodluck Jonathan of not doing enough to secure the release of the over 200 girls abducted from the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok by Boko Haram insurgents.
The women, who at a news conference in Maiduguri, vowed to go into the Sambisa forest in search of the schoolgirls, said if Jonathan’s child had been abducted, the story would have been different.
They wondered why security agents had not been able to locate and free the girls more than a week after they were forcibly taken away from their hostel in the school.
“Is the President telling us that the lives of over 200 girls abducted and taken into the bush more than a week ago are not important?” they asked journalists at the conference.
The women, drawn from a coalition of women associations in the state, said they were “ready to go into the forest to appeal to the Boko Haram insurgents to release our children to us.”
The forest is a large expanse of land near Cameroon where most of the attacks by the Boko Haram are launched.
The leader of the women, Prof. Hauwa Abdu Biu, said they were only waiting to be led into the forest by security operatives to bring back the girls to their homes.
Biu said had the parents who went into the forest earlier been given security shield, the girls would have by now been reunited with their families.
‘What stopped the security men on the ground from giving security back-up to the parents to go further into the bush?” she asked.
Biu said the abduction of the girls did not only amount to a violation of their rights, it was also a crime against humanity.
She added, “Women in Borno State condemn in totality such acts of violence as attacks on schools deny children their rights to learn in a safe environment, thereby jeopardising their future.
“Such acts are inhuman and affect efforts to enhance girl, child education and development in the state and the country at large.”
The women, who wore black gowns and headties, also condemned “all other attacks in the form of bomb blasts and serial killings all over the country and commiserated with the families of all those who lost their lives during the unfortunate incidents.”
They called on Boko Haram to urgently release all those in its custody, including the girls, and embrace dialogue.
The women also assured the insurgents of “our motherly support towards rehabilitating them when the need arises.”
Shortly after the news conference, one of the parents of the abducted schoolgirls alleged that he had been informed that their daughters were in the process of being forcibly married to some of their abductors.
The parent also complained that all they kept hearing from the government were mere promises of getting their daughters back.
He said, “The story we are hearing is not palatable at all. We heard they have grouped the girls – the mature ones and the little ones.
“We leant that the mature ones would be moving into a different camp where they would be forcibly married. But we do not know the fate of those they believe are immature.”
The parent, who did not want his name in print, added, “This news has made me sadder as my daughter is 19 years old. She is among the mature ones.”
He said that himself and other parents who went into the Sambisa forest, had to turn back when they were informed that the insurgents could kill all of them.
The parent argued that if they had been given security back-up, they would have reached the camps of the insurgents in the forest and plead for the release of their children.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has described the girls’ abduction as a national tragedy.
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, said after the Wednesday Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, that the President and other top government officials had been going through anguish since the incident occurred.
Stating that nobody in his widest imagination would ever believe that such a thing could happen in Nigeria, Maku added that how to rescue the girls was currently the first priority of government.
He said, “That young girls of school age could be abducted in our country in 2014 is a national tragedy. It is unimaginable, nobody even in our widest imagination would think that a group of people under whatever guise would take hostage of young girls who were in their school to take exams.
“This is indeed very painful. The President and all of us have been going through a lot of anguish. It is almost like a story out of this world. It goes to show the level of depravity and lack of human feeling that is going on in this country.
“The security forces are still on the heels of the kidnappers and every effort is being made but unfortunately, we are not fighting a standing army.”
In Lagos, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Dabiri-Erewa called on Jonathan to apologise to the families and victims of the Nyanya bombing and those of the abducted girls.
The lawmaker, who noted that there was no compassion in governance anymore, wondered why Jonathan had to attend a political rally in Kano a day after the Nyanya bomb blast claimed many lives.
She described the President’s visit to Kano “to sing and dance” after the blast and on a day the girls were abducted as “insensitive, callous, preposterous and very annoying.”
She also noted in a statement on Wednesday that the Federal Government’s strategy for ending the insurgency in the country had failed and advised that foreign assistance be sought.
The lawmaker said, “There are Nigerian experts on security in the Diaspora that could be contacted or consulted by the government for assistance.
“The recent bombing in Nyanya, an outskirt of the Federal Capital Territory, and the abduction of over 200 girls from a secondary school in Borno State have shown that efforts by the nation’s security agencies are not working effectively.
“The fight against terrorism has yet to curb the insurgency in Nigeria and such huge security challenge cannot be allowed to continue.
“Nigeria needs assistance, even from security experts across the globe who must not necessarily be Nigerians.”