Parents of schoolgirls abducted in north-eastern Nigeria plan to join the Bring Back Our Girls movement that gained global prominence in a bid to win freedom for their girls, a community leader said.
Islamist militant group Boko Haram is suspected to have kidnapped scores of girls last week from a school in Dapchi in Yobe state. Most are thought to be teenagers.
It would be the largest mass abduction since Boko Haram took more than 270 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, sparking an online campaign that went viral and spurring several governments into action to try and find them.
Many of those girls remain in captivity, though some have escaped or been ransomed.
A roll-call at the school in Dapchi on Tuesday showed 91 students absent, though estimates of the number of missing range from around 50 to more than 100. Parents have set up a committee in the village, which is around 100 km from state capital Damaturu.
“We have 105 names of missing girls we intend to give to the Bring Back Our Girls people in Abuja,” said committee chair Bashir Alhaji Manzu, whose teenage daughter, Fatima Bashir, is one of those missing.
The group would present its case to President Muhammadu Buhari, he said, adding it was angry with government’s response to the kidnapping.
Boko Haram wants to create a state adhering to a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Its name roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language widely spoken in north-east Nigeria.
The group has killed more than 20,000 people and put over rwo million to flight since its insurgency began in 2009.
On Friday, Buhari said he was sending more troops and reconnaissance aircraft to look for them.
“This is a national disaster,” he said. “We are sorry this happened and share your pain.” Earlier last week Buhari sent security forces and a ministerial team to the area.
“Some ministers came but they didn’t even speak with any parent, principal or teachers of the school,” he said.
In a further sign of community anger, villagers confronted a convoy carrying Yobe state governor when he said 76 girls reported rescued were in fact still missing.
Amina Usman, a 15-year-old student, was among the pupils who escaped the attack on Government Girls Technical College.
She was washing when she heard gun fire and saw what appeared to be soldiers in vehicles. She fled when she realised they were attackers and ran into the bush, later meeting a teacher and other escapees.
“We met other girls and the teacher counted all of us. We were 65 girls in all. I thought I will never see my parents or family again,” she said, adding she was too scared to return to school.
Kachalla Bukar, whose 14-year-old daughter is among those missing, said he was told the insurgents fooled some students into thinking they had come to offer protection.
“When we went to school on Tuesday she was not among girls found. Her colleagues gave us our daughter’s school box with her personal belongings. That was when we realised our daughter is actually missing,” he said.