Nigerians protest government inaction over kidnappings of schoolgirls; bomb victims sought

The Associated Press

A police officer stands guard as people attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of the government secondary school in Chibok, in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, May 22, 2014. Scores of protesters chanting "Bring Back Our Girls" marched in the Nigerian capital Thursday as many schools across the country closed to protest the abductions of more than 300 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, the government's failure to rescue them and the killings of scores of teachers by Islamic extremists in recent years. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Associated Press + More

By ANDREW DRAKE, Associated Press

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Scores of protesters chanting "Bring Back Our Girls" marched Thursday to Nigeria's presidential villa to demand more action to free nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic militants, but President Goodluck Jonathan did not meet with them, leaving a proxy to deliver a lecture that further angered the demonstrators.

"Another small window for Jonathan and he refuses to use it!" one protester yelled. "What a stupid move!"

The protesters complained of the insensitivity of Jonathan, who did not even meet parents of some of the abducted children when they came specially to Nigeria's capital earlier this month.

Many schools across the country also closed Thursday to protest the abductions, the government's failure to rescue them and the killings of scores of teachers by Islamic extremists in recent years.

Protesting teachers in Abuja demanded compensation for the families of slain colleagues.

Teacher Precillia Udewaze implored the insurgents to free the girls, saying on a video from Premium Times newspaper: "We are begging them, wherever they have kept these girls, please Boko Haram, Boko Haram, Boko Haram, please."

In Maiduguri, the northeast city that is the birthplace of Boko Haram, protesting teachers say they "can no longer tolerate government insensitivity to the plight of the girls and the education sector."

A separate march of protesters in Abuja sang "All we are saying is bring back our girls," to the tune of John Lennon's iconic "Give Peace a Chance."

They marched to the presidential villa, where they were told Jonathan was not home. Junior minister Olajumoke Akinjide read a message from the president urging Nigerians to unite and stop criticizing the government.

She said it was "wrong and most unfair" to suggest the government reacted slowly, saying Jonathan meets daily with security chiefs on the crisis.

Murmurs of disagreement rose as she said, "The people of Afghanistan do not blame the government, they blame the terrorists."

They were counseled to "encourage Nigerians to supply useful information to the security services."

That inflamed the crowd since that is exactly what residents of Chibok did, and if the military had responded to their warnings, the girls might never have been kidnapped.

Chibok local government chairman Bana Lawal told The Associated Press that he warned the army of an impending Boko Haram attack two hours before the rebels arrived. Reinforcements never arrived, leaving the road open to the school, where the extremists abducted more than 300 girls and young women. Fifty-three escaped and 276 remain in captivity, according to police.

Residents reported a similar lack of action that could have helped avert at least one of two bomb blasts Tuesday at a bustling marketplace in the central city of Jos. The death toll has risen to at least 130, making them the deadliest bombings yet committed by the Boko Haram extremists, though they have not claimed responsibility.

Market vendors said their suspicions were aroused by a white van parked for hours under a pedestrian bridge, according to Mark Lipdo of the Christian charity Stefanos Foundation. He said they warned soldiers at a nearby checkpoint, but nothing was done. The van contained the first bomb.

Lipdo said there was no apparent security response to the arrest on Saturday of a man wearing a suicide bomber vest who told police that many Boko Haram fighters had orders to plant bombs at churches and public places in Jos.

On Thursday, family and friends continued the search for victims missing in the blasts.

Many may never be identified, University of Jos student leader Dickson Odeh told The Associated Press after his group searched several hospital mortuaries. They were able to identify seven students, some only from ID papers on mutilated bodies.