Protesters affiliated with the #BringBackOurGirls movement demonstrated in front of the Nigerian Consulate-General in New York on Wednesday afternoon to deliver a petition addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari demanding that his government shore up efforts to rescue the abducted Chibok girls and all others held captive by Boko Haram.
Wednesday marked exactly two years and five months since over 270 schoolgirls were abducted from their dormitory by Boko Haram terrorists. While 57 girls managed to escape, not a single abductee out of the 219 remaining captives has been rescued, leading to ongoing protests in Nigeria and elsewhere demanding their release.
The staff of the consulate and mission in New York, however, did not welcome Wednesday's protest.
As the group peacefully proceeded into the lobby of the mission, a SaharaReporters correspondent filming the protest was accosted by plain-clothes security. Upon seeing the camera, the man began to yell at our correspondent before rushing to her, grabbing her arm, and forcibly removing the camera from her hands. It took the intervention of nearby demonstrators to restrain the guard and take his hands off our correspondent.
When the situation deescalated, an organizer of the protest pleaded with the receptionist to allow the group to speak to a representative of the Nigerian Consulate-General or Mission to the UN. After waiting for roughly 20 minutes, the spokesman for the Nigerian Mission to the UN, Akinremi Bolaji, came down to the lobby and reluctantly answered demonstrators’ questions.
Before answering any questions, Mr. Bolaji insisted that footage of the scuffle with the receptionist be deleted. He also, initially, covered his nametag with his tie preventing the citizens from knowing his identity.
He skirted around questions about the Nigerian government’s progress in rescuing the abductees, repeatedly stating that Boko Haram no longer holds territory in the country. Mr. Bolaji also described Aminu Ali, who escaped captivity on her own, as being “rescued.”
He did, however, assure Nigerians that the government was doing everything in its power to secure the release of the schoolgirls and asked that the people put their faith in the president.
A SaharaReporters correspondent spoke to some of the demonstrators after the spokesman left.
“Because President Buhari is at the U.N. General Assembly, we wanted to deliver a letter to him to let him know that there are concerned citizens,” said an organizer of the demonstration.
“Not just Nigerians, but we have people here from Afghanistan, the United States, Jamaica, from many different countries, that want [Mr. Buhari] to be reminded of his obligation and promises to the Nigerian people, and particularly to the families of the Chibok girls, that he would bring them back.”
Evon Idahosa, also spoke with SaharaReporters following the protest, that this was “the first time we felt we were heard” by the Nigerian authorities. She said that she was glad they “acknowledged and received the letter [to the president].”
Though she did wonder whether or not the response by the Nigerian consulate authorities was motivated in part by the embarrassing scuffle with a reporter in the lobby.
Mrs. Idahosa continued by stating that it was important to acknowledged “the protests are not anti-government, they are for solidarity, and send a message of transparency and accountability.” She added that the “easiest way to end the protest is to bring them [the Chibok girls] back.”
Video footage of the protest can be seen below: