Nigeria schoolgirls: President Goodluck Jonathan cancels meeting amidst security concerns
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Thursday 22 May 2014
More than 100 parents of Nigeria’s missing schoolgirls were stood up by a delegation from president Goodluck Jonathan’s government today, after a visit was cancelled at the last minute for security reasons, The Independent has learnt.
The incident has entrenched anti-government feeling in the remote north eastern town of Chibok, where more than 200 girls were kidnapped by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram last month.
This is the second time in a week that the girls’ parents have made the journey to Chibok girls school hoping for a first conversation with Government officials, only to be disappointed. Last Friday president Goodluck Jonathan was supposed to be meeting them but he cancelled on the day, also citing security concerns.
Asabe Kwambura, principal of the school, told The Independent: “It’s terrible. We were ready and waiting for their arrival with the parents of the missing girls and the recovered girls. But after all they said they are not coming. They said there’s no security and Boko Haram was on the road so they did not come.”
The committee of 32 people was sent from Abuja to Borno state’s capital, Maidiguri, by Goodluck Jonathan on a fact-finding mission to investigate the kidnapping. They were supposed to go on from there to Chibok but called to cancel at lunchtime after parents had been waiting all morning, arguing the road was not safe.
Ms Kwambura said: “How should I believe them? I left Maidiguri and came through the same route and I will go back the same way. I came alone without security.”
She added: “We’re disappointed because we’re not treated as we should be. More than 100 parents had travelled to see them. Some travelled 20km and left their house as early as five to make sure they were in Chibok in time. But they came and at 1pm the committee say they are not coming.
“We are looking to international organisations to find these girls because the Nigerian government is not ready to look for them. On 14 April they went and up to now there’s no news, so please, we are kneeling down and pleading that the government needs to do something.”
The fact that fraught parents have been let down a second time is too much, Ms Kwambura said. “The same happened when they said Goodluck Jonathan was coming and they all came to the school and had to go home. It’s painful for them. You miss your daughter and then someone in Government says they’re coming and doesn’t come. It’s painful.”
While parents waited at the school, teachers across the country went on strike and staged rallies in protest against the girls’ kidnapping and the killing of teachers during Boko Haram’s insurgency.
National Union of Teachers (NUT) president Micheal Alogba Olukoya claimed Boko Haram had killed 173 teachers over five years. In Maiduguri around 40 teachers marched on the office of Borno state governor Kashim Shettima chanting “bring back our girls” and holding placards saying “vulnerable schools should be fenced”.
International efforts to find the girls intensified yesterday as 80 US Air Force personnel arrived in Chad to work on the search mission.
Boko Haram’s violent campaign for an independent Islamic state has not let up since the kidnapping took place. Suspected gunmen from the group shot dead 29 farm workers today as they tilled their fields in a village in the remote northeast and two bombs in the central city of Jos killed at least 130 people on Tuesday.
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