Five years on, endless hope for the 112 missing Chibok girls

ON 14th April, 2014 the Boko Haram terrorists invaded the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State and abducted 276 school girls. It was a notable incident that pulled global attention.

Ambassadors, human right activists, popular musicians as well as the United States former President Barrack Obama with his wife, Michelle called on the former government, led by Goodluck Jonathan, to expedite action on the safe rescue of the school girls.

57 of the girls reportedly escaped, 107 were released at different periods while 112 still remain in captivity of the insurgents, five years after.

Incidentally, the unfortunate event birthed the BringBackOurGirls movement, co-founded by the former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili.

For five years, the movement had consistently advocated, pushing the previous and current administration to work towards safe return of the remaining girls.

Several solidarity protests were  held across the globe, causing foreign media organisations to gather at the popular Unity Fountain to further amplify the course.

In 2015, the APC seized the oportunity of the time with tailored promises that the missing school girls would be returned and Boko Haram defeated if elected into power.

But at the first anniversary of the Chibok girls, President Muhammadu Buhari almost dismissed hope of locating the girls, less of their safe return.

Eventually, through dialogue, the administration was able to secure the rescue of 82 of the missing girls, which eventually accounts for 107 so far released.

Meanwhile, there have been several unreported cases of kidnapping, prior to the 2014 incident, involving mainly young girls and women, perpetrated by insurgents in the terrorised region, mostly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Late leader of the Boko Haram insurgent, Abubakar Shekau, in 2012, had vowed to retaliate the action of the federal government due to arrest of over 100 women and children who were wives of his followers.

In a video released in September 2012, Shekau stated, “Since you are now holding our women, just wait and see what will happen to your own women . . . to your own wives according to Sharia law.”

According to Hamsatu Allamin, founder of Allamin Foundation for Peace and Development, while commemorating the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, in Borno, she said on 17th September, 2013, when gunmen in military uniforms, at Benishek blocked the highway leading to Damaturu, women and some young men were sorted out and taken away.

“A number of Fulani women and girls were taken away from their nomadic settlements around Buni Yadi in Yobe.”

The activist, who spoke on behalf of the entire management and members of the Jire Dole Network of Victims and Relations of the Conflict in North East Nigeria, on Sunday said, “a commander of the Niger-Chad forces in Damasak told Reuters that residents had reported the kidnapping of 400 to 500 women and children.

“Out of the over 592 that were taken away in 2014, only one was being reported or documented, while much more were abducted and remained missing forever. The 276 schoolgirls abducted from the Government Secondary School, Chibok on April 14 was the first to be ever reported, and it drew international outrage.”

She argued that, “many Nigerians may not have known that 501 school children from Damasak were taken away in Damasak,” referring to The 2014 Human Rights Watch.

She said “the government has refused to speak concerning it, the insurgents were reported to have abducted 60 young ladies in an attack on Waga Mongoro District of Madagali LGA of Adamawa State on 20th October.”

In the message, the caretaker chairman of Mafa LGA, Shettima once told journalists in Maiduguri on 26th October, that 30 young men and women were abducted by the insurgents, though not in one swoop, in addition to wife of member in the House of Assembly and female teachers of Secondary school in Dikwa.

“On May 5, 11 more girls were taken away in Warabe and Wala communities in Gwoza LGA. Similarly in June, JAS abducted about 20 women and three men in different villages near Chibok, some were said to be Fulani nomads women, who they sometime release for ransom paid in cattle.

“On October 23, a fresh set of 40 girls were reportedly abducted by the sect around Marte, Monguno – Dikwa and Mafa LGA axis, after killing unspecified number of villagers. In early November, over 20 girls and women were taken away in Lassa after an attack on the communities”.

However, while Nigerians are still hopeful of safe return of the remaining missing Chibok girls, Leah Sharibu, another school girl, 14 as at the time of capture, also went missing since February last year. She has been held hostage for over a year.

Sharibu is  born into a Christian family. Her only offence was holding strong to her faith, when she was to be released after being kidnapped by the Boko Haram sect alongside other 109 school girls from Government Girls’s Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State.

Parents’ endless waiting

Till date, parents of the missing girls are still hopeful their missing daughters will walk back home. Though, they kept this hope alive, federal government’s body language according to activists says otherwise.

Ezekwesili, in one of the outings at the popular unity fountain, Maitama, Abuja promised to stand by the parents and ensure their hope is restored. “We will stand with you until your kids come back.”

There were also repeated calls by the protesters and other notable Nigerians for the president to direct the military in a rescue mission as part of efforts to relive worries of the concerned parents and secure safety of the kids.

Ezekwesili further reminded the president of his promise to rescue the missing girls.

Today, as part of the commemoration of the Chibok girls, she reacted on her verified social media handle @Obyezeks.

“Five years came. Five years of deep agony. And our remaining 112 Chibok girls are not back. Five years after tragedy and Buhari fails them and their parents.

“It is a grand shame. Five years came. They shall never be forgotten.”

In an interview granted to the Nigerian Tribune, BBOG Spokesperson, Nifemi Onifade said the federal government had failed in its promise to rescuing the missing school girls.

“If you are to look at how well the government has done, you can look no further than those numbers and know that for 112 number of the Chibok girls to be with their abductors means the government has failed to do the needful in securing their release.”

“The 112 girls have had their freedom taken way from them for five years, their dreams put on hold for five years, their families as well as communities have not heard from them in five years,” Onifade stated.

Reno Omokri, a spokesperson of the former President, Goodluck Jonathan has been creating awareness across selected countries including the UK and Nepal to renew global attention on the missing girls, especially Leah sharibu. He has been mobilising supports for the family through the FreeLeahSharibu movement.


Government failed promises, long silence  

For a while, there has been a long silence on the part of the Federal Government. No official update has been released regarding the status of the rescue moves. Moreover, the Ministry of Information and Culture is yet to brief Nigerians regarding either the present condition of the missing Chibok girls, talk-less of Leah Sharibu.

Rather, indications have shown that the current administration was more important on its re-lection bid.

Until Saturday evening, a day to the 5-year commemoration, no official statement has been made by the president on his commitment to rescuing the girls in the past six months.

However, in a statement issued by his presidential aide in charge of media and publicity, Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari restated his commitment to rescuing the remaining missing girls.


Keeping hope alive

Going forward, concerned Nigerians and the BBOG group has remained resolute to ensure the government is persuaded to rescue the remaining missing girls.

    BBOG spokesperson, Onifade advised the federal government to consider negotiation, military intervention or use of both strategies to ensure safe return of the 112 girls left with the Boko Haram insurgents.

    In another joint statement obtained by The ICIR, the group blamed Buhari for persisting to deny the Chibok girls and their parents ‘speedy action of rescue promise’.

    “There is a lot of silence from the government on the abducted girls. We don’t know whether the government is trying to pretend like there is no problem….

    “What we demand from the government is that they should do their job, which is to secure the immediate return of the girls.”

    Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected]. Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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