President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday snubbed the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners who sought audience with him at the State House.
Instead, armed police blocked supporters of more than 270 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants on the six-month anniversary of the abduction.
A wall of female officers in full riot gear formed the first line of a barricade in front of less than 100 campaigners, preventing them from setting out.
Security forces outnumbered the protesters by 10 to one, as they chanted: “Bring back our girls now and alive!”
Elsewhere in the capital, about 300 youth members of Jonathan’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took over a park where the demonstrators normally meet.
Hadiza Bala Usman, who helps to coordinate the protests in Nigeria, said they have struggled to keep the issue in the public eye, with no news about the girls and often open hostility.
“It’s just about being here everyday even if it’s just for an hour,” she told AFP.
Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Zanaib Maina, who claimed she represented Jonathan told the protesters, We are here to meet you because Mr. President cannot come out, he has meetings and since already you are out that’s why we are asked to come here and meet with you and to apologise for his inability to be here personally. But you can see we are all members of the Federal Executive Council.”
She continued: “Even though you wrote a letter to the President, he can ask us to come and address you. That’s why we are here to address all of you here. You want to meet with Mr. President and find out why up till now the girls have not been rescued back to be reunited with their family.
“We are here to reassure you as a responsible government, there’s no government in the world that will sit back and be comfortable while the citizens of the country are abducted and we don’t know their condition.
“The government is doing all it can to make sure that these girls are rescued and back to their families alive. It is not as if the government is sitting back and watching.”
Maina was accompanied by Minister of Water Resources, Mrs Sarah Ochekpe; Minister of Environment, Mrs Lawrencia Laraba-Mallam, and Minister of Land and Housing, Mrs Akon Eyakenyi, among others.