The story of the unsuspecting girls taken away to suffer in some unknown land continues: A man whose sister and two nieces are among the 190 schoolgirls being held by suspected Islamist militants in north-eastern Nigeria tells the BBC about how his family are coping.
“Lawan is based in the capital, Abuja, but is in frequent touch with his relatives and has asked for his full name not to be used for security reasons.
The girls were taken by heavily armed gunmen on the night of Monday 14 April from their school hostel in the town of Chibok, Borno state.
It is not clear who is responsible but the Boko Haram Islamist group has often targeted educational establishments during its four-year insurgency; its name means “Western education is forbidden”.
Phoning people at home is disheartening. I’ve been phoning Chibok about two, three, four times a day; the general feeling has been of hopelessness.
My sister is 15 and is the youngest of my mother’s four children.
A few days ago there was a rumour of some insurgents being sighted and virtually everyone ran to the bush, vacating their homes” My nieces, aged about 12 and 14, are the daughters of my two brothers; there is nothing as an individual they can confront – there is little one can do.
Their wives are just like the others – crying and grieving, grieving.
Before the attack Chibok was relatively unaffected by the insurgency.
A police station was burned down about a year ago, but generally it was thought of some sort of safe haven for people, and business had been going on fairly normally.
People displaced from the neighbouring area of Damboa were being accommodated in the community.
Instead of going to Maiduguri, which is our state capital, people diverted most economic activities to Mubi and Yola in neighbouring Adamawa state because that side is relatively calm compared to Borno, which has been facing attacks.
But with this development, people are so frightened… it’s really hectic and very frightening.
I fear that every moment spent in these people’s custody exposes them further to the possibility of abuse or a threat to their lives” Also the protest for the same purpose was captured for the same purpose The government of Nigeria denied claims by the protesters that it is not doing enough to secure their release.
The Islamist group Boko Haram has been blamed for abducting the girls from their school in Chibok, Borno state.
Boko Haram has not yet made any response to the accusation.
The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, has staged a wave of attacks in northern Nigeria in recent years, with an estimated 1,500 killed in the violence and subsequent security crackdown this year alone.
Organisers told the BBC that about 500 people were marching to the National Assembly to hand over a letter demanding that the security forces be given more resources and that the missing daughters are returned home.
March organiser Hadiza Bala Usman tells the BBC about the protesters’ concerns:
“It is not clear why the rescue operation is not making headway considering the fact that there’s a clear idea of the perimeter area where these kids were taken in the first week: to the Sambisa forest.
And the camps of the insurgents are within the Sambisa forests.
Information is coming out that our own soldiers are not well equipped, that they do not have the ammunition required to do this – how come our soldiers are having some of these challenges in the field?
What matters is you’re having 200 young girls abducted so people need to rise above politicising an issue like this. We need to understand that these are lives we are talking about.
When you look at the north-east and when you look at girls’ education there, it’s very low. Parents are going to be very apprehensive about allowing their girls to go to school. Indeed there will be a whole generation of girls who will not be educated within that region.
The protest, labelled the “million-woman march” has been called by the Women for Peace and Justice organisation.
Nigeria’s Interior Minister Abba Moro told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme that he understood the “outpouring of emotions”, but the government could not divulge details of the steps it has taken to help the girls regain their freedom.
Government had to act in a “discreet” way because the militants had threatened to kill the girls if “certain steps” were taken.
Anger has mounted in recent days over the abductions. Parents have criticised the government’s search and rescue efforts and the number of missing girls has been disputed.
March organiser Hadiza Bala Usman told the BBC that the women wanted to know why soldiers seemed so ill-equipped to find the girls.
She warned that the abductions would discourage parents from sending their daughters to school in an area where few girls are given an education.
Saruta, a woman from Chibok, told the BBC’s Newsday that the community was desperate for help.
“For how long are we going to wait for the government to help us? We can’t bear it anymore. We can’t,” she said, breaking down in tears.
“We just want the government to help us, we want the whole world to hear this and help us,” she said
On Tuesday, a local official said some of the girls may have been taken to neighbouring states and forced to marry the militants.
Mr Bitrus, a Chibok community leader, said 43 of the girls had “regained their freedom” after escaping, while 230 were still in captivity. He was adamant that this figure – higher than previous
estimates – was correct.
Swathes of north-eastern Nigeria are, in effect, off limits to the military, allowing the militants to move the girls towards, or perhaps even across, the country’s borders with impunity, says the BBC’s Will
Ross in Abuja.
The students were about to sit their final year exam and so are mostly aged between 16 and 18.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau first threatened to treat captured women and girls as slaves in a video released in May 2013.
It fuelled concern at the time that the group was adhering to the ancient Islamic belief that women captured during war are slaves with whom their “masters” can have sex, correspondents say.