World Bulletin / News Desk
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan admitted late Sunday that his government does not know the whereabouts of scores of schoolgirls abducted by suspected Boko Haram rebels nearly three weeks ago.
"There is no conclusive information about where the girls are but we are doing everything to find them," Jonathan told the Presidential Media Chat, a two-hour TV program where the president takes questions from mostly Nigerian media executives.
He said the government has no "clues about the exact location" where the abducted schoolgirls were taken to.
"The security agencies are working on every information," added the Nigerian leader.
On April 14, rebels stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in Borno State's Chibok, located on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest, a known Boko Haram hideout.
They loaded scores of schoolgirls onto trucks before driving away unhindered.
A full two weeks later, the exact number of the missing schoolgirls remains dogged by controversy.
While local authorities say 129 girls went missing that night, some parents put the total as high as 234.
Going by official figures, 73 are still missing.
Thousands of protesters marched through major Nigerian cities last week to demand "prompt and strong" government action to free the schoolgirls.
They criticized perceived government apathy amid the deep distress and sadness of the missing girls' families.
"Everything will be done to bring back the girls. We will ensure we locate them," said President Jonathan.
He urged "maximum cooperation" from the parents and guardians of the abducted girls.
"We need the parents to volunteer information," the president said, warning people against condemning the role of the security agencies which he insisted have been on their toes.
The girls are believed to have been abducted by operatives of Boko Haram, a rebel group active mainly in the country's northeast.
But Jonathan said his government is not negotiating with anybody on the abduction of the children.
"We are not negotiating with anybody because there is nobody to negotiate with," he added.
"We cannot negotiate with anyone who has not come to the table. So the issue of negotiations has not come up," Jonathan explained.
The Nigerian president ruled out any comparison between Boko Haram and Niger Delta rebels.
"Niger delta rebels were not terrorists. They had reasons and stated their agitations," he said.
"They didn't go to market and kill people….Militants tabled their grievances. No basis for comparison," Jonathan insisted.
He said Boko Haram's "real intention is to pit the Christians and Muslims" and dismissed its initial target of churches as "mere smokescreen."
"We are ready to do anything and everything to end this madness called Boko Haram," added the Nigerian leader.
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