Protesters march on Nigeria presidency over kidnapped girls

Abuja (AFP) - Hundreds of members of a campaign group calling for the release of 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram marched on Nigeria's presidential villa on Wednesday to demand government action.

The BringBackOurGirls movement has held marches and demonstrations virtually every day since the teenagers were seized from the Borno state town of Chibok, northeast Nigeria, on April 14, 2014.

But President Mohammadu Buhari, who has previously said he could give no assurances of their safe return, made no direct mention of the abduction, instead promising the protesters a swift end to the violence.

"Our Chibok girls have stayed away beyond an acceptable amount of time in the hands of savages," BringBackOurGirls group leader Oby Ezekwesili told the president at his official residence, Aso Rock, in the capital Abuja.

"It is now time for their government to bring them back. There is no time left," she added.

Ezekwesili said the girls' rescue would be "the strongest statement that this government would make for having respect for the sanctity and dignity of every Nigerian life".

Buhari became Nigerian president on May 29 and vowed to crush the militant uprising but since then the Islamists have increased their attacks. More than 550 people have been killed in that time.

On Tuesday, a suspected suicide bomb attack killed 25 in Zaria, northern Nigeria, while 51 lost their lives on Sunday night in a twin attack on the central city of Jos.

The 72-year-old former military ruler criticised the previous government's "incompetence" in dealing with the kidnapping, which caused global outrage, as well as the six-year insurgency.

But he said regional efforts to tackle the threat from Boko Haram had increased since he came to power.

"Strategy and tactics have been drawn (up), (a) multinational task force has been put in place more or less with headquarters in N'Djamena, with a Nigerian general as the commander," he said.

"The troops dedicated by each of the countries are to be put in place by the end of the month."

More than 100 of the kidnapped schoolgirls were last seen in a Boko Haram video released in May last year, allegedly having converted to Islam, but there has been no sign of them since.