Why Nigeria's government can't prevent the kidnapping of 100 teenage school girls

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: When we think about young people swept up in a conflict somewhere, we tend to think about young me, but that doesn't mean girls are spared the trauma. On Monday, militants in Nigeria kidnapped at least 100 teenage girls from a school in the country's remote northeast. Residents suspect the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram. One of the girls who managed to escape spoke with the BBC.

"They took us through a town called Boa, then one of their cars broke down and they had to slow down, and then they transferred us to other vehicles. It was then that some of the girls in our truck decided to jump from the vehicle. I also decided to jump with some other girls. We ran into the bush and waited until daybright before we went back home."

Werman: These abductions come on the heels of a blast Monday at a busy transit station in Nigeria's capital of Abuja. More than 70 people were killed. Boko Haram is also thought to be behind that attack. Omoyele Sowore is a publisher of SaharaReporters.com, a website of citizen journalists. What are you hearing from your networks in Nigeria about these abductions?

Omoyele Sowore: We've received a few texts, including one today saying that 50 parents showed up at the school today to see if they can find their kids. The governor also said that only 14 of the girls have been recovered so far. So there are conflicting reports. We all know this abduction took place for several hours. Nothing came in terms of support for the girls. The abductors came at 9 P.M. and left at 3 A.M. It is said they made several trips from the school.

Werman: It's got to be a shocking realization if you're a parent and one of these girls is your daughter at this school and they just get abducted like that. Have you heard anything about reaction?

Sowore: The reaction has been, of course, condemnation and shock. Condemnation to the Nigerian militia authorities who have always claimed Boko Haram insurgency would be over by April and it's now sounding like "April Fools." The only girls who have so far returned home were the ones who braved the odds and jumped out of the trucks and came back home.

Werman: What don't we get when we talk about Boko Haram?

Sowore: What people don't get is that Nigeria is lacking the leadership and resources to deal with this effectively. The earlier the rest of the world understands it and comes to the aid of the Nigerian people, the better for the world because this is likely going to escalate into a regional crisis pretty soon. They're already making inroads and abducting and kidnapping in Cameroon. So this is going to become a regional problem pretty soon because these guys are getting more and more emboldened.

Werman: Omoyele, you can no longer openly return to Nigeria because of the reporting you and Sahara reporters undertake. Explain that.

Sowore: In the last 7 years, we started a citizen reporters platform. What we decided to do was to just take reports directly from citizens across Nigeria and some of this reporting that we've done included omitted information that we otherwise would not have known. Including huge bank accounts, homes, properties, private jets owned by the Nigerian elite. People in the Nigerian government can no longer tolerate our kinds of reports and so they put our names on the airport list. If we were to be found or arrested, you can imagine what would happen to us.

Werman: I'm curious, where do you think the Boko Haram story could take you and Sahara reporters?

Sowore: It was in one of the video where they actually threatened to bomb our offices in New York.

Werman: Boko Haram threatened this?

Sowore: Yes, they threatened us because they said we were revealing too many of their secrets. Because we rely on citizens, some of the people working with them, some of their operators do actually provide information sometimes. Of course, it puts us at risk with the Nigerian government and a non-state actor like Boko Haram. We don't know where it will take us. We're more concerned about where it will take Nigeria.

Werman: Omoyele Sowore is the publisher of SaharaReporters.com, a website of citizen journalists in Nigeria. Thank you very much Omoyele, we appreciate it.

Sowore: Thank you, Marco.

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