#BringBackOurGirls: “We cannot continue to be big brother for nothing”

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ABUJA (AFP) – Desperate parents of the more than 200 abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria called on Saturday for authorities there to bring in foreign help to secure their release.

Frustrated by the lack of progress so far in trying to free their daughters, the parents called on Nigerian authorities to use support from other countries.

“By all means, lets get the support we need from global players,” a former World Bank vice president, Obiageli Ezekwesili, said in a televised interview.

She was speaking at the venue of a sit-in protest organised by dozens of mothers and women in Abuja in support of the release of the girls.

“What these women are saying is that they want their daughters freed,” added Ezekwesili.

The women vowed to sustain their pressure on the Nigerian authorities to secure the release of 223 schoolgirls still being held by suspected Boko Haram Islamists.

Nigerian police on Friday put the figure at 223 out of 276 girls seized on April 14 from their school in Chibok, in the country’s northeast, revising upwards the number of youngsters abducted.

School and government officials in the northeastern state of Borno had previously given lower figures on the number of girls being held.

Gunmen believed to be Islamist fighters stormed the girls’ boarding school, forcing them from their dormitories onto trucks and driving them into the bush.

“We need the support of other nations. We cannot just continue to be big brother for nothing,” said another woman protester.

The Nigerian government said that it has set up a committee, presided over by a senior army general, to advise it on a mission to secure the release of the girls.

Isa Umar Gusau, spokesman of Borno state government, said that the state has been given three slots on the committee.

A father of one of the abducted girls in Chibok dismissed the effectiveness of this committee, expected to be inaugurated on Tuesday.

“Our frustration is increasing with every passing day…why can’t the government seek assistance from other nations?,” asked the parent, who demanded anonymity.

“Government sets up committees but the findings and recommendations of such committees are never implemented. This committee set up will not be different from other ones.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday vowed that Washington will do “everything possible” to help Nigeria deal with Boko Haram militants.

“Let me be clear. The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime,” Kerry said in a policy speech in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice. That is our responsibility and the world’s responsibility,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan was expected to meet in Abuja the Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, and the head teacher of the Chibok school from where the girls were kidnapped.

The Nigerian leader is also scheduled to hold a radio and television chat Sunday evening “on current national issues and developments”, his office said in a statement.

Jonathan “will respond to the most significant questions received before or during the programme,” it said.

- ‘What are they doing?’ -

Nigerian mothers on Saturday vowed to hold more protests to push a greater rescue effort from authorities.

“We need to sustain the message and the pressure on political and military authorities to do everything in their power to ensure these girls are freed,” protest organiser Hadiza Bala Usman told AFP.

She said that women and mothers will on Tuesday march to the offices of the defence minister and chief of defence staff “to ask them what they are doing to rescue our daughters”.

“We believe there is little or no effort for now on the part of the military and government to rescue these abducted girls, who are languishing in some dingy forest,” she said.

The mass kidnapping is 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, including 1,500 people this year alone.

A car bombing in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Thursday that killed 19 has fuelled fears that the Islamist group may be shifting its focus outside of its historic base in Nigeria’s remote northeast.

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