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Nigerian government has failed to protect women from Boko Haram, says new report

October 27th, 2014
06:11 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

The Nigerian government has failed to protect its women from a disturbing range of abuses by Boko Haram, the author of a new Human Rights Watch report told CNN's Michael Holmes, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.

From being forced into marriage and even to commit murder to rape in captivity, dozens of former hostages have described the extent of the abuse suffered at the hands of the Islamic militant group.

“What has happened now is that those girls, those students have failed to return to school because they are afraid of being re-abducted and so the failure to protect also fuels the violations of other rights, including the right to education and the rights to live in a secure environment,” Mausi Segun, Nigeria Researcher for Human Rights Watch, said.

The group’s largest single attack took place in April, when 270 schoolgirls were taken from Chibok in the northeastern state of Borno.

To illustrate the authorities’ seeming inaction, Mausi recounted one episode where the police did not request a potentially valuable testimony from a girl who managed to escape her kidnappers.

“When her parents took her to the local police station to report that she had just returned from three months in Boko Haram captivity, the words of the police to her parents were ‘lucky you, you better go back home and thank your lucky stars that you managed to escape’. There was no attempt to document what had happened to her or investigate,” she said.

Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Adviser to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, hit back at claims that his government has failed to respond properly to Boko Haram’s sustained campaign of terror and to prevent further abductions. He started by saying that he found some parts of the Human Rights Watch report “very patronizing.”

“The federal government of Nigeria and the state government have already directed the schools in the affected areas to be shut down, and alternative arrangements and postings have been made [so] that these children will be posted to neighboring schools and neighboring states where there is safety,” he said.

Okupe admitted that “it is difficult to provide individual safety and security for each person, and the girls or students, or men” living in the areas where the extremists operate, but that the “entire security problem is something that the military is responding to on a daily basis.”

The Nigerian government is under mounting pressure after suspected militants kidnapped another 30 children from a village in northeast Nigeria during the weekend, despite the announcement of a ceasefire just days before. Okupe asked people to be patient and allow the administration more time to get the girls back.

“The talks are going on. Yes there are infringements of the ceasefire and even the Boko Haram people have come [forward] themselves to say this was done by dissidents, this was done by criminals within those societies – and it is not unusual. You know we are talking about an insurgency sect, they have different warlords so they don’t all agree at the same time and it is not strange,” he said.

When asked to comment on a number of recent videos that seem to demonstrate Nigerian security forces carrying out human rights abuses as they hunt for Boko Haram, Okupe said the footage is “very questionable.”

“I have seen those tapes myself – they are quite preposterous. It’s unbelievable, and I don’t think anybody in the Nigerian army will do that. I do not believe that anybody in the Nigerian army, wearing a Nigerian uniform, would do those things that are depicted in those videos.”


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