Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds has travelled to Nigeria in bid to help secure the release of the 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
The Boston and Skegness MP was due to arrive in West Africa today to hold high-level meetings with Nigerian officials following the abduction of the school girls in the north of the country on April 14. Minister for Africa, Mr Simmonds, will explore what further assistance and advice the UK can provide to support Nigeria’s efforts to secure the girls’ release and deal with the threat posed by Boko Haram.
He joins a team of UK experts in the Nigerian capital Abuja seeking to secure the release of the schoolgirls, shown on video by their captors earlier this week wearing hijabs and reciting verses from the Koran.
Mr Simmonds said: “This is an horrific and heartbreaking situation and the UK wants to do all it can to offer support to the Nigerian efforts to secure the release of the kidnapped girls. We condemn the actions of Boko Haram and all that they stand for.
“Yesterday’s callous and shocking video of some of the missing school girls will only make it harder for their families to deal with this agonising ordeal. This shows exactly why the UK and others have sent teams to help the Nigerians in their efforts to find them and bring them home.
“Continuing murders and abductions of school children, particularly girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram, are a stark reminder of the threat faced by women and girls in conflict prone areas.
“Young children are being denied universal freedoms such as an education. They are being denied opportunity and the ability to live their lives as they choose. Girls are being threatened with sexual violence in forced marriages.”
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock, said: “The abductions have been traumatic for the Nigerian people. Britain, as a friend of Nigeria, is working urgently to help the Nigerian authorities in their efforts to find the girls and tackle longer term challenges in the north, such as education and stability.”
The Foreign Office is hosting a global summit on sexual violence in conflict in London next month led by Foreign Secretary William Hague and Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.