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Leader Of Movement To Find Nigeria’s Kidnapped School Girls Is Arrested

Naomi Mutu Nyadar was detained after leaving an all-night meeting with Nigeria’s first lady. Nearly 300 girls have been missing since last month.

A demonstration in Lagos, Nigeria. Sunday Alamba/Associated Press

The woman spearheading protests calling for greater government action to rescue nearly 300 girls kidnapped from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria was arrested early Monday morning.

Naomi Mutu Nyadar was arrested after leaving an all-night meeting with Nigeria’s First Lady Patience Jonathan.

“She’s being accused of falsely claiming to be a mother to one of the abducted children,” Human Rights Watch researcher Mausi Segun told BuzzFeed by telephone from Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. “What the other women have confirmed is that the woman simply said ‘our daughters’ the same way everyone in the world has been calling these girls as ‘our girls.’ That’s their story.”

Nyadar was arrested with one other woman, who had also attended the meeting with the first lady but was released. Nyadar is still being held in Asokoro Police Station in Abuja, Segun said. A lawyer has been arranged for her by other activists on the issue, and Segun said the hope is that Nyadar, whom the police could hold for up to 24 hours without charge, will be released on bail before the end of the day.

The first lady’s meeting comes at the end of a week of rallies in Nigeria to demand more government action to locate and free the girls, who were abducted around midnight on April 15, by members of Boko Haram, an Islamic separatist movement in northeastern Nigeria whose name means “Western education is forbidden.”

Nigerians broadly have been critical of the government’s slow pace in rescue efforts and its contradictory statements. The Nigerian army initially reported around 80 abductees and claimed to have freed all of them mere days after the kidnapping; it later retracted the statement.

President Goodluck Jonathan, whose silence on the kidnappings in part sparked last week’s rallies, has appointed a 26-member “fact-finding” commission to investigate why the school was open, despite security warnings, and make recommendations about a rescue strategy. The commission officially begins work tomorrow.

On Sunday, Jonathan spoke about the kidnapping for the first time, promising to find and rescue the girls and scolding the girls’ parents for not cooperating with the government.

“What we request is maximum cooperation from the guardians and the parents of these girls. Because up to this time, they have not been able to come clearly, to give the police clear identity of the girls that have yet to return,” he said.

Jonathan’s wife, Patience, meanwhile promised to lead a march in the capital of Borno State, where the girls were abducted, if they are not found promptly, implying that the blame for inaction lay with the state government, not her husband’s administration. The Borno Elders Forum called her proposal to march “very ridiculous,” in local media reports.

Jonathan also broke down publicly during the meetings she held this weekend.

“The first lady’s calling you come to help you, come to find your missing child,” she said.

“There is God in everything we are doing,” she insisted. “There is God-o,” she repeated until she broke into tears.

It was at the close of this meeting, which ran all night, that Nyadar was arrested, Segun said.

Also today, Boko Haram in a video claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and stated that it intends to sell the girls, according to AFP, which says it acquired the video. There have been unconfirmed reports that the group had sold some of the girls as wives for $12, possibly over the border in Cameroon.

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Jina Moore is the international women's rights correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Nairobi. Moore has reported from Liberia at the height of the Ebola crisis and on women’s issues around the world.
Contact Jina Moore at jina.moore@buzzfeed.com.
 
 

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