By Alexis Akwagyiram
ABUJA – Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari vowed on Tuesday to make every effort to free more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants a year ago but admitted it was not clear whether they would ever be found.
The abduction of the girls from a secondary school in Chibok in the country’s Northeast last April drew international attention to the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram’s attempt to establish a caliphate in religiously mixed Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer.
A march is expected in the capital, Abuja, on Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the mass kidnapping.
Buhari, whose presidential election win two weeks ago was the first democratic defeat of an incumbent in Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation, said his administration would do everything it could to defeat the militant Islamist group.
“We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them,” he said in a statement.
“My government will do everything in its power to bring them home,” added the former military ruler, who said his approach would differ from that taken by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan was criticised for a slow response to the Chibok girls crisis after he argued that a hasty rescue risked killing them.
“It was handled in a lousy manner,” Lawan Abana, whose two nieces were among those kidnapped, said by telephone.