Nigerian First Lady Allegedly Accuses Protesters of Making Up Kidnappings

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Nigerian First Lady Patience Jonathan reportedly demanded the arrest of the woman who has been leading protests denouncing the government's response to terrorist kidnapping of more than 200 16-to-18-year-old girls on April 15. Jonathan reportedly even accused the demonstrators of making up the incident and working with insurgent group Boko Haram, the group that after two weeks, has finally claimed responsibility for the abductions. 

Protest leader Saratu Angus Ndirpaya described her experience to the Associated Press, saying that she and fellow protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar were taken to a police station by State Security after an all-night meeting at the presidential villa, and that Nyadar has not yet been released. She also commented on the circumstances that led up to the incident, adding: 

Ndirpaya says First Lady Patience Jonathan accused them of fabricating the abductions. "She told so many lies, that we just wanted the government of Nigeria to have a bad name, that we did not want to support her husband's rule," she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. She said other women at the meeting cheered and chanted "yes, yes," when Mrs. Jonathan accused them of belonging to the Boko Haram terrorist network. "They said we are Boko Haram, and that Mrs. Nyadar is a member of Boko Haram.

The BBC reports that Jonathan seems to have acted out of spite, because she had "reportedly felt slighted that the mothers of the abducted girls had sent Ms Mutah to the meeting." 

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Over the weekend, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said that officials don't know where the taken girls are, but that "wherever [they] are, we'll get them out." The Nigerian people have been frustrated with the lack of progress in attempting to locate the girls, and many suspect that there may be political reasons for the delay. During his address on Sunday, Jonathan placed some blame on the relatives of the stolen girls, saying: 

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 added that the government has found it impossible to negotiate with captors who haven't identified themselves — an excuse no longer relevant, now that Boko Haram has taken responsibility for the kidnappings, per Agence-France Press. AFP said on Monday that it has possession of a 57-minute long video in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau  said, clearly, "I abducted your girls." 

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry called the incident "an unconscionable crime," saying that "We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice. That is our responsibility and the world's responsibility." 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.