Five Years on: Still waiting for Chibok girls

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It is not the kind of anniversary that Nigerians will like to celebrate. Five years in captivity of Boko Haram insurgents is a big trauma for the nation that has 112 innocent school girls carried away by the terror group, but when will the anxiety end is anyone guess

By Olu Ojewale

THE nightmare is still not over. Since Chibok Secondary School girls were adopted on Monday, April 14, 2014, Nigerians, especially relatives and friends are still anxiously waiting for news of the release of the remaining 112 still in captivity.

Indeed, the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from the government-owned Chibok Secondary School in Borno State caught the world’s attention and sparked a campaign for their release. Although the situation looks worrisome, parents and relations remain hopeful that the innocent young girls who were carried away because of their quest for education would one day, be allowed to rejoin their loved ones at home. But elsewhere in the country, the passage of time seems to have lowered expectations of finding the girls.

As if that was not bad enough, on Sunday, April 14, Daily Trust reported that Boko Haram militants invaded a village at Chibok in Borno State while members of the Abducted Chibok Girls Parents’ Movement for Rescue were commemorating the fifth anniversary of their abducted daughters.

One of the parents told Daily Trust on phone that while the commemorative activities were still going on within the Chibok township, the story filtered into the community that Boko Haram insurgents stormed Kwarangullum village shooting sporadically in the night.

Mallam Bulama, the village district head, who was outside of the community, reportedly confirmed the invasion to the newspaper.

Expressing their disappointment, members of the #BringBackOurGirls advocacy group, while commemorating the fifth anniversary of the adoption, accused the federal government of abandoning the remaining 112 Chibok schoolgirls to their fate. They said five years after the abduction of the schoolgirls, their parents were grieving without a glint of hope for the release of their daughters.

The activists noted that similar neglect had befallen the parents of Leah Sharibu, an abducted victim of insurgents.

#BBOG said federal government’s failure on the Chibok schoolgirls had become a sore point in the nation’s history.

Nifemi Onifade, a representative of the group, stated this in a speech co-signed by fellow members of the group, Florence Ozor and Gapani Yanga.

Onifade said: “No serious government handles a matter like the still missing 112 schoolgirls of Chibok and Dapchi with the levity of an unending saga. The same manner of gross neglect and abandonment has also been extended to the parents of #LeahSharibu. We question the government’s silence on #LeahSharibu. We question government’s silence on the state of Alice Nggadah of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

“Our movement has already done everything within the power of a citizens’ group to keep the government alert to its primary responsibility of securing the lives of the Nigerian people since 2014. Our persistent advocacy was to forewarn government of the consequences of sending the wrong signals on the value Nigeria places on the lives of our citizens.

“Today, abductions and kidnapping are rife, gruesome killings take place on repeat basis across the country and internally displaced persons, IDPs, are unable to rebuild their lives. That Nigeria has, since it failed our #Chibokgirls in 2014, degenerated to become a poster country for terrorist mayhem is the grandest shame of a nation.

“Today, our core demand remains the same, relevant today as it has been on each of the 1811 days that we have daily turned up at the Unity Fountain pressuring two consecutive Presidents of Nigeria to rescue the remaining 112 #ChibokGirls, Leah Sharibu, Alice and others. For as long as they remain in captivity, we of the #BBOG shall continue to carry them in our hearts and make our voices resound and re-echo our cries of five years. Mr President #BringBackOurGirls now and alive.”

However, Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant general and chief of Army Staff, on Monday, April 15, assured Nigerians that the search for the remaining abducted Chibok girls was still on.

According Buratai activities of Boko Haram have been confined to Lake Chad region and fringes of Sambisa forest.

The army chief spoke while delivering the maiden lecture of the Centre for Contemporary Security Affairs at the Igbinedion University, Okada headquarters of Ovia North East local government area.

He stated that complex security challenges like the Boko Haram activities required political and security solutions that ensure that democracies rebound stronger after a crisis.

On his part, Yakubu Nkeki, the chairman of the Chibok Parents Association, told Human Rights Watch that an officer from the new Chibok Desk at the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, met with his members in December 2018. The officer gave each parent the equivalent of $12 in Nigerian naira and some food items, but she neither provided updates on recent efforts to secure the release of the remaining girls nor offered the families any counselling. Nkeki said that 34 of the parents have died of various causes in the past five years, including trauma associated with the abduction. “The parents of the girls who are yet to be released are traumatized,” he said. “It is really difficult for them and I feel bad calling them for our meetings because there are no updates.”

That notwithstanding, analysts have said the military’s failure to press its advantage and destroy Boko Haram has enabled it to regroup and resume the kidnapping of girls, children and women.

“In February 2018, the group again kidnapped another 110 girls in Dapchi, Yobe State, but released all but one five weeks later, because of the quick intervention of the federal government. The only victim held, then 17-year-old Leah Sharibu, has become another iconic symbol of resilience and personal integrity: she remains in captivity as punishment for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

“In any case, the United Nations estimated that more than 1,000 children were kidnapped by the Boko Haram group between 2013 and April 2018. An equal number of women and girls have been captured and used as “wives,” cooks and domestic servants. According to the Combating Terrorism Centre at the United States Military Academy, West Point, Boko Haram has used more female suicide bombers than any other terrorist group in history. Some 244 of the 434 bombers the group deployed between April 2011 and June 2017 were female, mostly adolescent girls, compared with Sri Lanka’s defunct Tamil Tigers, the previous record holders that used 44 female bombers in a decade,” the Punch newspaper said in its editorial of April 14.

That notwithstanding, the newspaper said: “We encourage the Nigerian government to continue to work through third parties and diplomatic “back channels” to recover the girls. France, Spain and Germany pay ransom to secure the release of their nationals. Islamist terrorists, says a BBC report, have earned $125 million as ransom from diverse governments between 2008 and 2015. Ultimately, however, the solution to the terrorist rampage is to destroy Boko Haram by improved military, intelligence and local policing.”

It is the hope and aspiration of every Nigerian that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is taking the matter as seriously as it deserves to keep the nation safe for everyone. In the time meantime, it is not a happy anniversary.

– Apr. 16, 2019 @ 17:35 GMT |

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