Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan canceled a trip Friday to the traumatized town from which Boko Haram abducted more than 300 schoolgirls a month ago citing security concerns, further angering parents of the victims already frustrated with what they see as the government’s slow response to the incident. Police say 53 girls have managed to escape, while 276 remain in captivity.
Instead of heading to the northeastern village of Chibok, Jonathan will instead fly directly from the capital Abuja to Paris for a summit that is expected to include representatives from its neighbors, including Chad, Cameroon and Niger as well as officials from the U.S., Britain and the European Union, to discuss the Boko Haram insurgency and wider insecurity in the region.
The father of one of the missing girls told Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh that families had started gathering at the school in anticipation of a meeting but were very disappointed and frustrated to hear news of the cancellation.
However, another person told Al Jazeera that Jonathan's decision not to visit was not so surprising because, the villager said, the government has "long abandoned us."
Jonathan’s visit would have been the first to the scene of the abduction that took place in a region that has suffered regular deadly assaults by Nigeria's Boko Haram network. Thousands have been killed over the past several years and more than 1,500 civilians have died in this year alone.
Two officials in Jonathan's administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were apparent concerns about security ahead of the president's planned visit, after news of the trip was leaked to the media and published on front pages of newspapers Friday.
Jonathan had been expected to fly on one of his presidential jets from Abuja to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital in the northeast, and then be transported by military helicopter to Chibok, 80 miles to the south.
The road from Maiduguri to Chibok passes by the Sambisa Forest to which the girls were first taken. The area is a known hideout of the insurgents and has been attacked many times. Soldiers say 12 troops were killed in an ambush on that road on Monday night. The Defense Ministry said four soldiers were killed in a firefight on the outskirts of Chibok that night.
Soldiers revolted and opened fire on the car of a commanding officer who came to pay respects to the bodies brought to a Maiduguri barracks on Tuesday, said the soldiers, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they want to keep their jobs. The Defense Ministry said the soldiers only fired into the air. The commander was unharmed.
There have been other signs that some Nigerian troops are near mutiny, complaining that they are outnumbered and outgunned by the insurgents, are not properly paid and have to scavenge for food in the bush.
Alice Friend, the U.S. Department for Defense director for African affairs, discussed the weakness of the Nigerian military Thursday at a hearing about the kidnapped girls and the threat posed by Boko Haram.
"We're now looking at a military force that's, quite frankly, becoming afraid to even engage" the enemy, she told the U.S. Senate subcommittee on African Affairs in Washington. She also said "much of the funding" for Nigeria's military is "skimmed off the top" by corrupt officers in a country where corruption is endemic.
The summit in Paris, meanwhile, is expected to focus on how to address the regional threat posed by Boko Haram, which is fighting for an Islamist state. The government has had little success in combatting the group, which in addition to killing thousands since 2009, has destabilized parts of northeast Nigeria, the country with Africa's largest population and biggest economy.
Al Jazeera and wire services