Islam's war against Nigeria's Christians is now expanding to include the Nigerian government. For the second time in a few weeks, a bomb blast in the nation's capital Abuja, located in southern Nigeria, which is mostly Christian, has resulted in death, injuries and destruction.
The Islamic army Boko Haram, which took credit for the earlier blast, is considered responsible for this attack.
At the same time protests are spreading across the nation about Boko Haram's kidnapping of more than 200 teenaged girls from a school in northern Nigeria.
Nigeria's population is approximately 50% Muslim and 50% Christian and native religions. Nigeria is not only Africa's most populous country, its GDP is now greater even than that of South Africa.
Islamist Militants Seized Girls Nearly Three Weeks Ago; Continued Uncertain Fate Raises Public Outcry
by Drew Hinshaw and Gbenga Seun Ijagba
WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 2, 2014
Nigerians held protests in several cities across the country on Thursday to call for action to rescue over two hundred schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
A bomb ripped through a neighborhood just minutes from the presidential palace in Abuja, less than a week before Nigeria hosts its biggest business gathering in generations--a World Economic Forum meant to fete its rising favor among investors.
At least 15 people died in the 8:25 p.m. blast, said eyewitness Hassan Abdullahi, who counted bodies strewed about the road. A police spokesman put the death toll at 12, with 16 wounded, several of the victims cabdrivers or everyday Nigerians commuting home from work.
They nearly included Patrick Godiya, who came to the area to buy herbs, and crossed the streets seconds before the blast: "I would have been dead," said the dumbstruck individual on Thursday night.
The blast occurred near the same Nyanya bus station where an April 14 bomb killed 72 people. And it capped an extraordinary few weeks in Nigeria. Just as the country is attempting to position itself on the global stage as a rising, muscular new frontier economy, a fusillade of bomb blasts from an Islamic insurgency called Boko Haram, drawn from this country's deeply poor, is interceding.
On Thursday, protests spread over the government's failure to secure the release of more than 200 teenage girls still held by Islamist militants nearly three weeks after they were seized flared up Thursday across Nigeria.
Demonstrations over the government's alleged ineptitude took place in Lagos, the capital Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna, where a hundred women carried placards, many reading, "Free Our Daughters!"
Nearly three weeks ago, Islamist fighters seized 273 teenage girls from their boarding school in northern Nigeria. The girls' uncertain fate threatens to swell into a public scandal in a country otherwise numb to constant terror attacks.
Some 220 of the girls are still unaccounted for, according to the school's principal, Asabe Kwambura, and the stories of those lucky enough to have escaped, of being forced by Boko Haram members into menial labor or of some of their schoolmates being sold as sex slaves, have captivated and horrified the Nigerian public.
Amnesty International says that Boko Haram was responsible for the deaths of more than 1,500 people during the first three months of this year. The dead included college students burned alive in their dormitories, villagers shot in their mud-brick homes, children ripped apart by car bombs and truckers dragged from their cabs and torn to death by chain saws, according to eyewitness accounts. These atrocities underscored a point Boko Haram never seems to tire of making: Nigeria can't protect its citizens.
Yet this violence, for all its brutality, rarely elicited much more than a patchy recitation of events in daily newspapers. Presidential statements expressing condolences were rare. Even as the death toll mounted early this year, nightly news programs continued to revolve around the activities of ministers and business figures. Life continued mostly as normal for this bustling economy growing at a brisk 7.9%, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The girls' kidnapping and protracted captivity, however, has profoundly shaken the country. For weeks, politicians have broken ranks with President Goodluck Jonathan to declare their dismay about the authorities' inability to locate the girls. Several Nigerian websites feature clocks showing how many days, hours, minutes and seconds have passed since the girls were seized.
Many Nigerians say they are following every word from the girls' distraught parents. Several of the girls' fathers have ventured into the woods with bows and arrows to confront the sect themselves. They have come back empty-handed.
The view of Uche Agbai, a radio presenter who attended the protest in Lagos on Thursday, is shared by an expanding number of Nigerians.
"The way the Nigerian government is responding to it is just really sad," Mr. Agbai said. "We don't see any investigation being carried out. We don't see the president or his aides saying this is the progress we have so far."
Nigeria's government says it is making every effort to find the girls. The day after they were kidnapped, Mr. Jonathan convened his security team for an emergency meeting, his spokesman said. Now the government says it believes that the girls have been taken to neighboring Cameroon.
Cameroon ridicules the suggestion. "That is a hoax," said Augustin Fonka Awah, governor of Cameroon's Far North Region. "Instead, kidnappers take people hostages from Cameroon into Nigeria."
The timing of the girls' kidnapping and the crisis of public confidence that has ensued couldn't be worse for the government. Last month, Nigeria became the biggest economy in Africa and the 24th largest in the world. Abuja's hosting of next week's World Economic Forum amounts to the country's biggest coming-out party in generations.
--Emmanuel Tumanjong in Yaounde, Cameroon, contributed to this article