Wilson keeping up pressure to free Nigerian schoolgirls

BY CHRIS ADAMS
MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who has pushed for months to pressure the Nigerian government to help free girls taken hostage by the Boko Haram organization, renewed her call on the day that country’s new president was scheduled to visit Congress.

On April 15, the one-year anniversary of the Boko Haram kidnappings of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, center, greets Saa, second from left, and Patience, right, in Washington, D.C. The girls were just some of the ones who escaped.(DIAN ZHAG/MCCLATCHY DC/TNS)
On April 15, the one-year anniversary of the Boko Haram kidnappings of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, center, greets Saa, second from left, and Patience, right, in Washington, D.C. The girls were just some of the ones who escaped.
(DIAN ZHAG/MCCLATCHY DC/TNS)

In a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Wilson — a Democrat from Miami Gardens — both offered a welcome to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and urged him to be proactive in rooting out the terrorist group Boko Haram.

“Those who are still missing, we pray for them on a daily basis,” she said in a Capitol Hill press event on the girls, who were abducted more than a year ago. “And until someone can show me a mass grave where all of them are buried — or show me proof that they are gone forever — we will continue to tweet, every day, ‘Bring back our girls.’ ”

Most still missing
About 275 schoolgirls from Borno State in northern Nigeria were kidnapped by the militant group in April 2014. While some of the girls escaped, most remain missing or in captivity, despite efforts by the United States and other nations to free them.

Their plight has spurred the ongoing #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign and other worldwide efforts to publicize the issue and to pressure the Nigerian government.

Wilson has been a leader in a campaign to help free the girls, prodding her colleagues in Congress into action.

Buhari’s March election win was regarded as free and fair. He beat the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, on pledges to clamp down on Boko Haram and to root out corruption.

Bahari, Obama meet
On the House Triangle patio by the U.S. Capitol, Wilson joined other lawmakers, African advocacy groups and members of civil rights and other groups. She was also joined by one of the girls who escaped and is now living in Virginia.

Buhari met with members of Congress on Tuesday evening. President Barack Obama met with Buhari on Monday, and the two leaders talked about the Nigerian’s goal to combat terrorism and other extremists.

“Since taking office, President Buhari has received international praise for making this goal a top priority for his administration, which my colleagues and I wholeheartedly support,” Wilson said in a statement before the afternoon event.

“We hope to learn after his visit to Capitol Hill that he also has a very clear agenda to secure the return of the 219 Chibok girls who are still missing after their abduction by the terrorist group last April.”

‘Deserves more news’
As for her role, Wilson said after the event that while she thinks the new Nigerian president is more responsive than the previous one, she would not let up her pressure: “I’m not a person to not pressure,” she told McClatchy.

“And I just think it deserves more news,” she added. “I think it deserves more notoriety, in the mainstream press. And I’m determined to keep it at least on social media. That’s the best I can do. I don’t own a newspaper or a radio station. But I do know how to tweet.”

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