16th June, 2015
ABUJA—As Nigeria and neighboring countries debate the leadership of a military task force and how to fight Boko Haram, #BringBackOurGirls campaigners are pressing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue girls kidnapped by the group and end the insurgency.The cry rings out at the Unity Fountain Park in central Abuja. It’s sounded by parents, relatives and supporters of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram from the village of Chibok in April 2014.
More than 100 people gathered in the park, their meeting place for more than a year, to discuss issues surrounding the kidnapping of the 219 girls.
The group’s leaders say President Muhammadu Buhari has responded to a letter they sent last week and he will meet them soon.
Nigerian media report Buhari met with 10 parents of the missing girls last week before he left for the African Union Summit in South Africa.
#BringBackOurGirls campaigner Hadiza Bala Usman said there are several issues to address.
“One being the status and rescue of the girls, making inquiries about ending the insurgency, where we are in terms of accountability and security spending,” Usman said. She added that the group planned to present a document called the Citizens Solutions to End Terrorism, “a collection of information” from citizens.
Nigeria, Chad, Benin, Niger and Cameroon have called for a united effort to defeat Boko Haram. The militants have been launching attacks in and near northeastern Nigeria since 2009.
Amnesty International says Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women in Nigeria since the start of 2014, forcing many into sexual slavery and armed combat. Amnesty says men and boys are regularly conscripted or executed.
The Reverend Mark Enoch had his biological and adopted daughters kidnapped in Chibok. He fled when Boko Haram threatened him.
“Really, life has been so bad,” he said. “… I lost my daughter, I lost my office, I lost my properties … and really the former northeast is not steady. The university has been closed, all schools have been closed and we are forced to leave our own motherland. We are now refugees in Abuja.”
Dr. Peregrino Brimah recently joined the group in the park for the first time. He said it is good for people to be involved.
“As a physician, it is only healing one broken limb at a time, but there is somebody on this other side bombing and breaking hundred limbs at a time,” he said. “… Each one of us [has] a unique skill, and I believe we should never just be fixing to our little profession, we should be involved at some level in government.”
Usman said the meeting with Buhari will mean little if it does not result in action.
“What matters to me is … if it translates into actionable activity where girls are rescued,” she said. “… Meeting would reiterate the fact that the citizens are agitating for an end of the insurgency.”
In April, Buhari said he could not promise authorities will find the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.