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Nigerians dissatisfied with government response to Boko Haram’s mass abduction of girls

May 2, 2014 at 6:20 PM EDT
In Nigeria, one of Africa’s most prosperous nations, a wave of violence has cast a shadow over plans for an upcoming world economic forum. A bomb blast Thursday killed 19 people in the capital and more than 275 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram are still missing. Judy Woodruff talks to Mannir Dan-Ali of the Daily Trust in Abuja for an update on the fate of the girls.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to an extended look at some developments on the African continent.

We start with Nigeria, one of Africa’s most prosperous nations, where a wave of violence is casting a shadow over plans for a World Economic Forum there next week. Another bomb blast late Thursday killed 19 people in the country’s capital and outrage continues over the fate of more than 275 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Mannir Dan Ali is an editor at The Daily Trust newspaper in Abuja. I spoke to him by phone a short time ago.

Mannir Dan Ali, thank you for talking with us.

It’s been weeks since these schoolgirls were taken. There are reports that some of them have been forced to marry their abductors, that they have been taken across borders into other countries like Cameroon and Chad. Is any of this verified?

MANNIR DAN ALI, Daily Trust: What is verified is that these girls were abducted nearly — I mean, more than two weeks ago, exactly on the 15th of last month.

And, so far, nobody can say exactly where they are. Actually, to the parents of the girls who have been making desperate efforts to try to locate them, but the Nigerian authorities also say that they have been doing that. But at the end of a meeting today, the Nigerian authorities put out a statement saying that they are going to find these girls wherever they may be in the world, and that they will get them back and apprehend and punish the culprits.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the parents? What are they saying to the government and what are they doing?

MANNIR DAN ALI: Well, actually, generally, Nigerians are quite dissatisfied with the handling of the whole matter.

They can’t understand that it took more than two weeks for the government to even set up the committee which would (INAUDIBLE) until Tuesday next week to actually try to verify the actual number of the students because there have been conflicting figures.

It started from 100-plus, then climbed to 200 to — and now the next tally which is from the police who have interacted with the principal of the school and parents is that more than 270 of the students were abducted from that school.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know that Nigeria — we think of Nigeria as a wealthy country with huge oil resources. It’s hard to understand from the outside why the government hasn’t been more successful going after Boko Haram or whoever is behind this.

MANNIR DAN ALI: Actually, it is even harder for Nigerians to understand that.

That’s why there have been all sorts of interpretations, also so curious what may be happening or not happening. And that’s why people are so distrustful of the authorities here over the matter. This is why they can’t understand that the Nigerian security forces, Nigerian armed forces that have gone and restored peace in Liberia, in (INAUDIBLE) and other African countries itself creditably well are just at a loss as how to deal with this abduction, and that it took actually the series of protests by concerned parents, by Nigerians that is making the government to actually sit up and take the whole matter more seriously now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, this meeting next week in Nigeria, the World Economic Forum, these are going to be political and business leaders from all over the world. Can the government guarantee their safety?

MANNIR DAN ALI: Actually, the government has been saying come to that, look, come to Abuja and hold this meeting. There won’t be any problem. All sorts of measures have been taken.

Actually, the latest measure one has just been announced hours ago, that all government offices and schools will be shut during the time that the World Economic Forum will be holding next week in Abuja.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mannir Dan Ali with The Daily Trust in Abuja, we thank you for talking with us.

MANNIR DAN ALI: Thank you very much for the opportunity, Judy.