The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has released a list of girls who were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists April 15 at the Government Girls College in Nigeria’s Borno State.
According to CAN, of the girls abducted, 165 were Christian and 15 Muslim.
The Punch reports that figures it obtained from Evangelist Mathew Owojaiye, president of Old Time Revival Hour, and former chairman of Northern States Christian and Elders Forum, also estimated the number of the abducted girls at about 180.
This figure conflicts with official figures.
According to the Vanguard, the Borno State police command and the Department of State Service released figures Sunday saying at least 276 girls were abducted. Fifty-three girls reportedly escaped, but these figures are uncertain and subject to review.
The authorities earlier said that 234 girls were missing. According to The Punch, even while prospects of recovering the girls remain uncertain, CAN has demanded that after the girls are found, the federal government must pay "50 million naira [about $300,000] to each of the girls as trauma compensation" and must "take each girl to an overseas university on government scholarships by September 2014 … SS1 [Senior Secondary 1] and SS2 [Senior Seconary 2] girls in that school must be transferred to schools of their choice, the cost of which must be borne by the government."
CAN argued the Nigerian government is obliged to provide compensation because it was its duty to "protect the innocent girls" in the first place.
Some Nigerians have criticized CAN for listing the Christian abductees apart from the Muslims and emphasizing the fact that most of the abductees were Christian girls, saying that it could incite sectarian strife.
A Nigerian reader of The Punch said, "I am still struggling to understand what CAN is trying to achieve by segmenting the number of girls based on religion. Religious faith does not matter … Muslim girls were also abducted and they are all Nigerians. I am a Christian, but I believe that both the representatives of CAN and Islam are causing Nigeria's division."
CAN appears to be suggesting that the Chibok community was targeted because it is a Christian community. The towns of Chibok, Gwoza and Askira Uba are Christian enclaves in the Muslim-majority state of Borno.
Some Nigerians have also criticized CAN for demanding monetary compensation at a time when the girls have not been found. Critics say that CAN is putting the cart before the horse.
Why can't we focus on finding the girls before we begin talking about compensation?
A realistic appraisal of the intelligence capabilities of the Nigerian security services could cause despair of recovering the girls. The methods the Nigerian security forces have employed in fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria are crude and indiscriminate, revealing the incompetence of the security forces in matters of targeted operations and intelligence gathering.
Nigerian security forces will need foreign assistance to conduct an effective search campaign.
In fact, immediately after the girls went missing, community members in Chibok resorted immediately to self-help, reflecting their lack of confidence in the authorities. They traveled on motorbikes at great risk to their lives into the Sambisa Forest hideout of Boko Haram hoping to find them and negotiate the release of their daughters.
The Vanguard reports that one of the parents who searched the forest said:
While we were in the forest with over 200 volunteers who only had cutlasses, bows, arrows and sticks, we came across different make-shift camps ... we had to turn back when we met one good Samaritan ... who advised us that it was in our own interest to go back because ... we were approaching ... a dead zone dominated by terrorists.
If soldiers had accompanied us to the forest, we were optimistic that our missing children would have been rescued, or we would be satisfied if we can just see the dead bodies of our daughters.
The Tribune reports that security forces are preparing to raid the Sambisa Forest hideout, two weeks after the abduction.
According to the Vanguard, four battalions of troops have been mobilized for the operation.
Reports that at least some of the girls have been sent across the borders into northern Cameroon and Chad could complicate the task of finding them.
The delayed response of Nigerian authorities could have given the abductors time to disperse the girls across the borders, making it more difficult to find them. This delayed response gives the impression that their action is merely in response to local and international pressure.
Women’s' groups backed by sympathizers held "Bring Back Our Girls" demonstrations in many parts of the country, including Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and Kano.
Probably what is most disturbing about the entire incident is the crass irresponsibility of local authorities who allowed vulnerable young women to sit public examinations without proper security arrangements in a region where there had been previous deadly attacks on schoolchildren.
Reports said armed men arrived in the school in trucks and motorcycles at about 11 p.m. April 15, herded the girls leisurely into the trucks and drove them in a convoy into the Sambisa Forest looting and burning along the way.