The Nigerian government has been "somewhat derelict" in protecting their children, Hillary Clinton said Wednesday as international attention focused on schoolgirls kidnapped by a militant group.
"The seizure of these young women by this radical, extremist group, Boko Haram is abominable, it’s criminal, it’s an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible, first and foremost from the government of Nigeria," Clinton said, later adding that "the government of Nigeria has been in my view somewhat derelict in its responsibility toward protecting boy and girls, men and women in northern Nigeria over the last years."
During her remarks at a philanthropy event in New York City, Clinton went on to say "the Nigerian government must accept help – particularly intelligence, surveillance and recognizance help – their troops have to be the ones that (are) necessary but they could do a better job if they accept the offers that are being made."
The U.S. government has offered to help in the search for the schoolgirls. Officials have told CNN the Obama administration is sharing intelligence with Nigerian authorities and could provide other assistance, but there is no plan to send U.S. troops. Legislators on Capitol Hill have also called for the United States to do more to help the Nigerian government.
Clinton also blasted wider decisions made by the Nigerian government during the public interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.
"Nigeria has made bad choices, not hard choices" Clinton said, parroting the name of her forthcoming memoir.
"They have squandered their oil wealth, they have allowed corruption to fester and now they are losing control of parts of their territory because they wouldn't make hard choices."
In late April, heavily armed Islamic militants stormed a girl’s dormitory at the Government Girls Secondary School in the Nigerian town of Chibok. Upwards of 270 students were kidnapped and days later, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video statement that he planned to sell them into slavery. More than 50 got away and the remaining are the subject of the search.
The kidnappings quickly gained international attention by using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The hashtag has been used to update people on the state of the search, but also to criticize the Nigerian government for their handling of the kidnapping.
The Nigerian government has defend its handling of the matter.
The former secretory of state strengthened her criticism of the Nigerian government later in the night at the International Crisis Group's annual award dinner.
"The Nigerian government has failed to confront the threat or to address the underlying challenges," Clinton said of the kidnappings. "Most of all, the government of Nigeria needs to get serious about protecting all of its citizens… and ensuring the every child has the right and opportunity to go to school."
Standing in front of high profile financiers and donors at the opulent Waldorf Astoria, Clinton went on to urge Nigerian citizens to hold their leaders accountable and implored religious leaders, Nigeria's neighbors, the African Union and the international community to continue to stay involved in finding the schoolgirls.
"Every asset and expertise should be brought to bear," Clinton said. "Everyone needs to see this for what it is, it is a gross human rights abuse but it is also part of a continuing struggle within Nigeria and within North Africa."
In addition to addressing the situation in Nigeria, Clinton used much of her speech to discuss her record at state and particularly highlighted her work in opening the government of Burma. Republicans have criticized Clinton for what they say is a lack of notable accomplishments as America's top diplomat.
While Wednesday's comments were Clinton's first statements about the kidnappings, the former first lady has joined in on the social media campaign, too.
Clinton has joined in on the social media campaign, too.
"Access to education is a basic right & an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls. We must stand up to terrorism. #BringBackOurGirls," she tweeted on May 4.