Nigeria parents deny playing politics over Chibok girls

Women wearing t-shirts reading #Bringbackourgirls chant slogans in Abuja on 14 July 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The president accused the campaign group of influencing parents not to meet him

Parents of the schoolgirls abducted by militant Islamists in Nigeria have denied playing politics by refusing to meet President Goodluck Jonathan.

Tuesday's meeting failed to take place because proper protocol had not been followed, their spokesman said.

Mr Jonathan said the parents had called off the meeting after being manipulated by the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group.

Boko Haram captured more than 200 girls in the town of Chibok on 14 April.

The row broke out as the alleged mastermind of a twin bomb attack in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, was extradited from Sudan back to Nigeria.

Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche was reportedly arrested in Khartoum in May after Interpol issued an arrest warrant.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche was flown into Abuja on Tuesday

He is accused of planning the Nyanya bus station bombings earlier this year, which killed 75 people.

Boko Haram said it carried out the bombings.

'In pain'

Mr Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three north-eastern states last year to quell the insurgency, but Boko Haram has stepped up attacks since then.

It caused an international outcry in April when it abducted the girls.

#BringBackOurGirls was a global campaign launched on social media to secure their release.

Who are Boko Haram?

Image copyright AFP
  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria - also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

Mr Jonathan was widely criticised for failing to meet distraught parents and not doing enough to rescue the girls.

On Monday, he agreed to meet 12 parents and five girls who escaped shortly after being seized by Boko Haram, following a request by Pakistani rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai.

Chibok community spokesman Dauda Iliya said the proposed meeting had been organised in a hurry, so there was not time to consult with all the parents.

Chibok residents were "very traumatised" and people had lost trust in each other, he said.

If a small number of parents suddenly announced they had met the president, they would have a "hard time" from the others, and there might be a "suspicion that money had changed hands", Mr Iliya said.

The decision had "nothing" to do with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group, he told BBC Focus on Africa.

"We are in pain. We can't bear any animosity to the government," Mr Iliya said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Parents have been pleading for the release of the girls

He added that the president should visit to see for himself the "level of destruction" in the area, or failing that, another meeting could be organised properly.

Mr Jonathan said "political forces" in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group derailed the meeting.

The lobby group has also denied having any influence in the decision not to meet the president.

Nigeria is due to hold presidential elections next year.

Mr Jonathan has not yet declared his candidature, but speculation is rife that he intends to run for another term.

He launched a fund to help those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency on Wednesday, urging the public to donate money.

More than three million people are facing a humanitarian crisis because of the conflict, according to the government's relief agency.

On Monday, about 45 people were killed following fighting in Dille village in north-eastern Borno state, residents told the BBC.

Local vigilantes fought back after Boko Haram raided the village, killing 20 of the attackers, residents said.

About 25 villagers were also killed by Boko Haram and the Nigerian military, they added.

A military jet flew over the village some five hours after Boko Haram's raid, opening fire and killing civilians, residents said.

The military has not commented on the allegation.

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