Maiduguri: Hundreds of people joined a protest in the traditional stronghold of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria today, accusing the government of indifference to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Islamists.
The demonstration in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state in northeast Nigeria, included residents from the remote town of Chibok, where heavily armed Boko Haram fighters abducted 276 girls on April 14, participants told AFP.
The demonstrators marched to the office of state governor Kashim Shettima and delivered a letter of protest to be sent to President Goodluck Jonathan, they said.
"We staged this protest to express our dissatisfaction with the indifference and lack of concern with which the Nigerian government has handled the kidnap of our schoolgirls," said Manaseh Allan, a youth leader in Chibok who led the march.
"What adds to our displeasure is the way some officials try to trivialise our agony by denying the abduction and ridicule our local leaders."
Allan said frantic parents and friends of the girls had scoured the bush for the youngsters but claimed the security agencies had done nothing.
"We therefore call on the Nigerian government to intensify effort and show strong commitment and the will to free our girls," he added.
"As it is now we have seen no such commitment and will to act."
Allan and Governor Shettima said people in the town welcomed foreign assistance in the search for the girls.
Chibok residents` association spokesman Alabe Grema added that some of the girls` parents were traumatised and had "gone mad".
Shettima, meanwhile, declared three days of prayers and fasting next week for the safe return of the 223 girls still missing.
"We are calling on all Muslims and Christians to embark on a three-day fasting to seek God`s help towards rescuing our girls," he said.
"All of us must fast because we worship the same God," he added, saying the issue crossed political and religious lines.
"All what we want is the safe return of our girls," Shettima said.