Skip to main content

Nigerians demand better government response to schoolgirl abductions

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
  • NEW: Nigerians stage a daily protest urging a better government response
  • Nigerian President vows "to get these girls out"
  • First lady Michelle Obama made her first solo White House weekly address
  • Key Muslim leader criticizes Boko Haram

(CNN) -- Nigerians staging a daily protest in the capital said Saturday they are fed up with their government's indifference to the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls, even as the Nigerian president once again promised to bring them home.

For 11 days, the protesters in Abuja have demanded Nigeria do more to rescue the girls, who were kidnapped more than three weeks ago by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. They vow to sit every day until the girls are rescued.

"We need to keep this up every day," protest organizer Rotimi Olawale told CNN. "We are saying that we want our girls alive."

Saturday, President Goodluck Jonathan said he was worried about the girls and he thanked other countries, including the United States, that have pledged support in finding them.

New video allegedly shows Nigerian girls
Escaped girl recalls kidnapping ordeal
Nigerian father: Nothing has been done

"We promise the world that we must get these girls out," Jonathan said.

U.S. support for Nigeria

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama on Saturday condemned the "unconscionable" kidnapping of the girls, saying in the White House weekly radio address it was the work of "a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education."

Earlier this week, Obama tweeted a photo of herself with a sign that said #BringBackOurGirls.

U.S. and British officials are in Abuja to help Nigeria's government look for the girls, plan rescue missions and advise on ways to subdue Boko Haram.

President Barack Obama has directed his administration to do everything possible to help the Nigerian government, the first lady said.

'Nothing has been done'

Scrutiny of the Nigerian government's response to the kidnappings has escalated. A report Friday from Amnesty International says authorities knew at least four hours before the attack that Boko Haram was on its way to raid the girls' boarding school in the northeastern town of Chibok.

The report's findings echo accounts of a number of the girls' parents and villagers, who have described to CNN an ineffective military response in the days and weeks after the girls were taken.

"Nothing on the ground. Nothing," a Nigerian father told CNN. "(For) 21 days, nothing has been done."

A young mother from Chibok said all that families have left is hope.

U.S. military advisers arrive in Nigeria
Complications in the search for Nigerian girls
Should the U.S. search for Nigerian girls?

"If 23 years ago somebody had abducted me, taken me away and killed my dreams, where would I be today? I might be dead," Aisha Yesufu said. "And for those kids, for nobody to care?"

Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, took credit for the mass kidnappings in a video that surfaced this week. He said he planned to sell the girls into slavery.

In a published interview Friday with Al-Hayat, a semiofficial Saudi newspaper, Saudi Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh, a key religious leader in the Muslim world, condemned Boko Haram as a terrorist organization.

He described it as an organization "set up to smear the image of Islam" and said the group is "not right and misguided, because Islam is against kidnapping, murder and aggression."

Not enough troops to respond?

The Amnesty International report alleges that after Nigerian commanders were informed of the pending attack, they were unable to raise enough troops to respond.

A military contingent of between 15 and 17 soldiers and a handful of police officers in Chibok were unable to fend off as many as 200 Boko Haram fighters who stole the girls from their beds, the report says.

The Nigerian government claims it responded with troops, helicopters and airplanes in the immediate aftermath of the mass abduction.

Michelle Obama's message on Twitter  Michelle Obama's message on Twitter
Michelle Obama's message on TwitterMichelle Obama's message on Twitter

"It is a very painful period for all of us," Nigerian Defense Minister Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro said. "We've had sleepless nights trying to bring this to an end. Right now our primary concern is how that can be achieved and not disclose the details of where they are and whether they are in units or they are in one central location." Nigerian officials have frequently been criticized for failing to prevent Boko Haram's deadly attacks, particularly in the terror group's stronghold of northeastern Nigeria.

At least 2,000 people have died in violence in northern Nigeria this year alone, Amnesty said. The most recent Boko Haram attack killed at least 310 people in a town that had been used as a staging ground for troops searching for the missing girls.

CNN EXCLUSIVE: Nigerian girl who escaped Boko Haram says she still feels afraid

READ: Boko Haram leader claims captives converted to Islam

READ: Playing dead allowed man to survive Boko Haram massacre

CNN's Vladimir Duthiers, Isha Sesay, Slma Shelbayah and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Arwa Damon meets two young orphans, now in Niger, whose mother died years ago -- and whose father was killed in a Boko Haram attack in Nigeria.
updated 6:41 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
A small river marks the border between Niger and Nigeria -- a shallow divide between security and the horrors of Boko Haram.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Arwa Damon reports that U.S. sources now believe Boko Haram insurgents may be hiding on the islands of Lake Chad.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Isha Sesay talks to journalist Aminu Abubakar who says approximately 500 people have been killed in northeastern Nigeria.
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
A policeman stand beside children holding as members of Lagos based civil society groups hold rally calling for the release of missing Chibok school girls at the state government house, in Lagos, Nigeria, on May 5, 2014. Boko Haram on Monday claimed the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria that has triggered international outrage, threatening to sell them as
Police in Nigeria's capital Tuesday made a U-turn, saying a ban on protests in support of the more than 200 girls kidnapped in April does not exist.
updated 2:36 AM EDT, Tue May 27, 2014
A top Nigerian official claims to know where the missing schoolgirls are located, as Arwa Damon reports.
updated 5:00 PM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
Arwa Damon reports on Nigerian schools sitting empty as residents live in fear of Boko Haram.
updated 7:11 PM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
A large part of northern and central Nigeria is now at the mercy of intensified attacks by Boko Haram, and the group seems to be embarking on a new phase of its campaign.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
Half of a yellow sun poster
It's one of the most important Nigerian stories to hit the big screen -- yet the director says Nigeria's bureaucracy is purposely preventing its release.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
Opinion: The media turns Boko Haram into 'superstar monsters' -- which is exactly what they want.
updated 8:24 AM EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir speaks with the mothers of two missing Nigerian schoolgirls.
updated 9:18 AM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
With fear in her eyes, a young woman tells CNN's Nima Elbagir, the first journalist to visit Chibok, how she fled gun-toting Islamic extremists.
updated 6:39 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Over the last 20 years, the narrative on the African continent has shifted from Afro-pessimism to Afro-optimism.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Women in repressive countries are fighting back against injustice, writes Frida Ghitis.
updated 8:46 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Biyi Bandele, who recently directed Oscar nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor in "Half of a Yellow Sun," discusses his remarkable journey.
updated 6:24 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
From regular people to celebrities, here are some of the people participating in the movement.
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Nigeria woke up to a brand new economy, apparently. But the country are suffering and its people responded with a hiss.
updated 5:00 AM EDT, Mon April 7, 2014
At 23, many people around the world are still at university -- at that age, Gossy Ukanwoke had already started one.
updated 12:23 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Oprah, if you're reading this, for goodness sake return this woman's calls.
Are you in Nigeria? Share your thoughts on the schoolgirls' kidnapping, but please stay safe.