First lady Patience Jonathan fueled anger Monday when a leader of a protest march said she ordered the arrests of two protest leaders, expressed doubts there was any kidnapping and accused the protest leaders of belonging to Boko Haram.
It was unclear what authority Mrs. Jonathan would have to give such orders, since there is no office of first lady in the Nigerian constitution.
Ayo Adewuyi, spokesman for the first lady, said he was unaware of any arrests. “The first lady did not order the arrest of anybody, and I’m sure of that,” he told the AP..
But Saratu Angus Ndirpaya of Chibok town said State Security Service agents drove her and protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar to a police station Monday after an all-night meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital. She said police immediately released her but that Nyadar remains in detention. Deputy Superintendent Daniel Altine, police spokeswoman for Abuja, said she had no information but would investigate.
But Ndirpaya said Mrs. Jonathan accused them of fabricating the abductions. “She told so many lies, that we just wanted the government of Nigeria to have a bad name, that we did not want to support her husband’s rule,” she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
She said other women at the meeting, allies of Mrs. Jonathan including officials of the government and the ruling party, cheered and chanted “yes, yes,” when Mrs. Jonathan accused them of belonging to Boko Haram. “They said we are Boko Haram, and that Mrs. Nyadar is a member of Boko Haram.” She said Nyadar and herself do not have daughters among those abducted, but are supporting the mothers of kidnapped daughters.
Mrs. Jonathan said the women “had no right to protest,” especially Nyadar, whom she identified as the deputy director of the National Directorate of Employment. Jonathan said Nyadar should resign her government post, Ndirpaya said.
In a report on the meeting, Daily Trust newspaper quoted Mrs. Jonathan as ordering all Nigerian women to stop protesting, and threatening “should anything happen to them during protests, they should blame themselves.”
On Sunday night, Jonathan said his administration is doing everything possible. On Friday he created a presidential committee to go to the affected Borno state to work with the community on a strategy to get the girls free.
Associated Press writers Lekan Oyekanmi and Bashir Adigun contributed to this report from Abuja, Nigeria, and Ibrahim Garba contributed from Kano, Nigeria.