- (Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
The Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans is urgently calling on the Nigerian government to step up its efforts and rescue the 200 or so school girls who were kidnapped in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram last month, amid reports they are being forced to marry the Islamic militants.
"The Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the federal, state and local governments can do far much more than they are doing. Nigeria is now undergoing an intense insurgency that requires the government to be more resolute, decisive and unwavering in the fight," Laolu Akande, executive director of CANAN, said in a press release on Thursday.
"There is no longer room for half-measures or political posturing by the political elite in the country. The Nigerian military has to be actively enhanced to carry out its responsibility including taking care of the welfare of the soldiers on the frontline."
There have been conflicting figures presented on the exact amount of school girls kidnapped two weeks ago, but CANAN believes it to be between 185 to 245. While various reports have claimed that some girls were able to escape, the majority are believed to still be held captive.
The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that a number of the young women are being forced to marry the Islamic militants.
"The latest reports are that they have been taken across the borders, some to Cameroon and Chad," said Halite Aliyu of the Borno-Yobe People's Forum, a civil society group. The girls, between 16 to 18 years old, apparently are being sold for 2,000 naira ($12.)
Sen. Ali Ndume has called on the government to do "whatever it takes" to see the girls released, even seeking external support.
"The longer it takes the dimmer the chances of finding them, the longer it takes the more traumatized the family and the abducted girls are," Ndume said.
AP described Nigeria's failure to rescue the girls as a "massive embarrassment," and noted that President Jonathan is facing mounting criticism over the military's failure to stop the continuous attacks by the Islamic extremists.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of Christians and government representatives in its war on Nigeria, stretching for close to 5 years now, with a mission to establish Sharia law and Islamic rule on the religiously divided nation.
While the Nigerian military has raided a number of Boko Haram bases, the militants remain active and continue carrying out church and government building attacks. In April, Islamist extremists are also suspected to be behind a deadly bus bombing in Abuja, where 71 people were killed and 123 were injured.
Last week, Christians across Nigeria joined in prayer and fasting for the abducted girls, calling for their safe return.
"The Christian enclave of Chibok, a Christian village, has been thrown into mourning over the abduction of girls from a secondary school," reported persecution watchdog group Open Doors workers from Nigeria. "Almost every house has a child in this school. Cries of parents could be heard all over the town as they prayed for God's intervention over their tragic circumstances."
Akande told The Christian Post in an interview in April that although there have not been many reports on Boko Haram carrying out abductions, the kidnapping strategy is not something new.
"Boko Haram has been kidnapping little girls who are Christians, trying to turn them into sex slaves, trying to convert them by force. Their strategy is to marry the girls and kill the men. So what they have done by kidnapping these female students, it is another demonstration of the impunity with which Boko Haram has been running its terrorist activities," the CANAN Executive Director told CP.
In the latest press release, he called the situation "bad and grossly pathetic," and said that the organization stands behind the parents of the abducted girls in condemning the behavior of the kidnappers.
"We pray for the safe return of these young girls, who are students, and whose only guilt is that they seek education. No one should have to suffer and come under such acrimonious onslaught because they seek knowledge, just as no one should have to suffer because of their faith," Akande said.