ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered an investigation into efforts to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in the town of Chibok by suspected Boko Haram Islamists following a late night raid on April 14.
The probe by a 26-member panel, due to begin on May 6, will also investigate why the school remained open while others in Borno state were closed after recent attacks on schools in the northeast, the Abuja-based presidency said in a statement emailed late Friday. The inquiry will also ascertain the exact number of girls missing and their identities following discrepancies in the number of students seized.
A total of 276 girls were kidnapped, Principal Asabe Kwambura said by phone on Friday. While 53 escaped their captors, 223 remain missing. “Right now, we are going to publish the names and photographs of the missing girls so that henceforth there won’t be any conflicting figures,” she said.
Borno is the birthplace of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, whose name means “western education is a sin” in the Hausa language. The group wants to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, in Africa’s biggest oil producer and largest economy. Leader Abubakar Shekau warned in a video released in March that all students should leave university and girls drop out of school to get married.
“In Islam, it is allowed to take infidel women as slaves,” Shekau said. “In due course, we will start taking women away.”
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About 200 protesters marched through major streets in Abuja on Wednesday to the parliament to demand action by the government to rescue the hostages. The insurgency in the north and the security operations by Jonathan’s administration to end it have left at least 1,500 people dead this year, Amnesty International said on March 31.
The probe panel, headed by former Army General Ibrahim Sabo, will include members from government and security agencies, such as the State Security police, Borno state government and the Economic Community of West African States.
Jonathan also on Saturday approved the shutdown of schools, government offices and private firms with large workforce in Abuja, the capital, to ease traffic ahead of the May 7-9 World Economic Forum to be held in the city. The closing follows a blast in the Nyanya district, the second in a month, that killed more than 90 and wounded at least 200.