Nigeria President Criticized as Calls to Rescue Girls Rise

Nigerians protested for a second day in the commercial capital of Lagos, adding their voices to others across the world urging authorities to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist extremists three weeks ago.

Hundreds of people walked to the headquarters of the Lagos State government to deliver a letter addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan, demanding the government secure the release of the girls abducted on April 14 from their dormitories at a school in the northeastern town of Chibok. More protests are planned tomorrow in the capital, Abuja.

Boko Haram, whose name means “western education is a sin,” is waging a campaign of violence to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, on Africa’s biggest oil producer and most populous country of about 170 million people. Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, claimed responsibility for the mass abduction in a video statement, Agence-France Presse reported today.

“We believe the government doesn’t value human life because this is not the first time girls are being abducted,” Yemi Adamolekun, executive director of Enough is Enough Nigeria, a youth group that’s part of a coalition that organized today’s march, said by phone from Lagos. “We’ll go back to the Lagos state governor’s office next week Monday if the girls aren’t back. I hope we don’t have to do that.”

While security forces are working to free the girls, their exact location isn’t yet known, Jonathan said in a televised interview yesterday. Nigeria is working with neighboring nations to ensure the kidnapped girls are returned to the country if they were taken across borders, he said.

Daily Protests

Protesters have marched in cities including New York, London, Atlanta and Washington, mobilizing by using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

In Abuja, the site of two bomb attacks in the past month that killed more than 90 people, protesters have met daily since April 30. The city is set to host the World Economic Forum on Africa on May 7, drawing business and political leaders from across the continent.

Naomi Mutah Nyadar, a Chibok resident who was identified on social media as a leader of the protests, was questioned by police today, according to a statement published on the force’s website. Protesters weren’t arrested or detained, the police said.

“The police and other security agencies are leaving no stone unturned at ensuring that the abducted school children are rescued,” spokesman Frank Mba said in the statement, without giving details on why Nyadar was questioned.

U.S. Support

The U.S. has offered to help Nigeria find the abducted girls, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on May 3. While Kerry didn’t provide details of the support, a State Department official who wasn’t authorized to comment on the record said the U.S. will be sending a team that includes officials from the department and Pentagon to consult with the Nigerian government.

The U.S. helps Nigeria combat Boko Haram by assisting with intelligence gathering and helping authorities build up their capacity to communicate between security agencies, which is weak, the official said.

“The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice,” Kerry said.

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