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One year on: Nigerian government 'did not believe' schoolgirls were kidnapped

The Nigerian government “did not believe” that more than 200 girls had been kidnapped by Boko Haram in the first few days following their disappearance, according to a former president of the country.

It is 12 months to the day since the schoolgirls were taken by the radical Islamic group Boko Haram, and Olusegun Obasanjo, who was president of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, said last month that the government at the time dismissed the news as untrue.

Goodluck Jonathan was president when the girls disappeared and came under serious criticism for his perceived lack of action in trying to find the kidnapped students. His inaction toward Boko Haram was cited as one of the key reasons for his electoral defeat in the country’s general election two weeks ago.

Speaking to TES last month at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, Mr Obasanjo said crucial time was lost because Mr Jonathan did not believe the girls had actually been taken.

“[The government] didn’t see [Boko Haram] as an issue, they didn’t see it as a national issue. They saw it as an issue that had been manufactured against the incumbent president so he wouldn’t have a second term. That was the way it was perceived,” Mr Obasanjo said.

“So when the news of the [girls’] abduction came at about 8am the following day, the government’s reaction was that it couldn’t be true. There were no meaningful discussions with the government of that state [Borno], that was why the government’s reaction was lukewarm at best.”

The 276 girls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in the north-east of the country by Boko Haram, whose name translates as “Western education is forbidden”. More than 50 girls were able to escape in the days just after their abduction, but 219 remain captive.

The lack of action by the incumbent government sparked protests and a Twitter campaign called #BringBackOurGirls. But despite the global recognition at the time, little progress has been made to find and rescue the girls. 

Related stories: 

Teachers in Nigeria live in fear as pressure mounts to bring back kidnapped schoolgirls - 6 May 2014

Families of missing Nigerian schoolgirls protest against government inaction - 30 April 2014

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