Chibok community in the Southern part of Borno State on Thursday joined the rest of the country to mark the eighth year anniversary of the abduction of schoolgirls in their domain, with parents and community leaders describing the day as one of disappointment and lamentation.
Daily Trust reports that on April 14, 2014, Boko Haram insurgents invaded Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, and abducted 276 schoolgirls who were preparing for their final year examination.
Among those abducted, 164 have reportedly escaped, were released or found. However, eight years down the line, Daily Trust findings revealed that 109 of the girls still remain in the custody of the insurgents.
Our checks also revealed that no fewer than 24 parents of the abducted schoolgirls had died from high blood pressure and other heart-related ailments developed as a result of their missing daughters.
A day of lamentation, disappointment
Daily Trust gathered that as part of activities marking the anniversary, an interfaith denominational prayer session was held on Thursday on the premises of GGSS, Chibok, where the girls were abducted in 2014.
The annual Chibok Girls’ Lecture was also held virtually with a focus on the government’s failure in education.
A cross section of parents and community leaders from Chibok who spoke with our reporters expressed sadness, describing the anniversary as another day of disappointment and lamentation.
Mr Pogu Bitrus, a former president of the Kibaku Area Development Association, an umbrella body of the Chibok community, said, “It is a day of lamentation and disappointment for the Chibok community because many of our abducted children are still in captivity. It is also unfortunate that Nigeria’s security situation which led to their abduction has not abated, to the extent that facilities such as airports and train stations are now being targeted.
“It is indeed a sad reminder that we are not out of the woods in terms of insecurity. Government promises remain unfulfilled despite its primary responsibility of securing lives. We are all hostages in this country; we are all in bondage because our collective security is not guaranteed.”
Dr Manaseh Alen, the publicity secretary of the Kibaku Area Development Association, said it was frustrating that for eight years, government had failed to fulfil its promise of rescuing the schoolgirls.
He said, “Parents have been dying while waiting for the return of their children. Nobody is listening to us; we are angry and have resorted to prayers because the government has failed us.”
A Chibok-based parent who simply gave his name as Ayuba said the mood in Chibok remained that of the graveyard.
Ayuba said, “Today marks exactly eight years of our daughters’ abduction, and parents have lost faith in government because they have failed us woefully.”
BBOG conveners seek reforms against kidnapping
The conveners of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) called for the amendment of the constitution as part of measures to rescue the remaining Chibok schoolgirls and prevent future occurrences.
They spoke during a virtual meeting tagged: ‘#ChibokGirls 6th Annual Lecture and 8th Year Commemoration’, convened by Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili.
One of the co-conveners, Mrs Aisha Yesufu, condemned the non-resolution of the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction, adding that the case lingered because the girls and others still in captivity were children of the common man.
She also said that the constitution was defective as it did not respect the rights of women and did not accord the same rights to women as men.
Also, the executive director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said that the non-resolution of the Chibok girls’ issue showed the failure of government to uphold the constitution. She also suggested an amendment to the constitution to strengthen the rights and security of women and the girl child in the country, saying, “this, among others, was due to the marrying off of some of the girls by the terrorists.”
On her part, a former minister of education, Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili, said the eighth anniversary of the Chibok girls’ abduction showed that everyone must be alive to ensure the return of the girls and others still with kidnappers and terrorists.
Also speaking in a chat at the virtual meeting, one of the rescued Chibok girls, Rebecca Ishaku, said, “I want to take this opportunity to thank all the members of BBOG for constantly reminding the government about my friends that are still in captivity.”
Amnesty, UNICEF speak
Meanwhile, according to a global rights group, Amnesty International (AI), eight years after the abduction of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram, over 1,500 Nigerian school children have been abducted by armed groups across the country.
Amnesty International’s Nigeria director, Osai Ojigho, said this on Thursday in a statement, noting that: “Nigerian authorities are failing to protect them (schoolchildren).”
While some of the girls managed to escape and others were released following campaigning effort and government negotiations, 109 of the girls remain in captivity, and at least 16 have been killed or died due to other causes.
Amnesty’s statement reads in part: “Between December, 2020, and October last year, 1,436 schoolchildren – and 17 teachers – were abducted from schools in Nigeria by armed groups. The recent upsurge has triggered prolonged school shutdowns – and in turn led to a decline in school enrolment and attendance, as well as a rise in child marriage and pregnancies of school-age girls.
“Of the more than 1,500 school children who have been abducted in Northern Nigeria since the Chibok attack, at least 120 students remain in captivity. They are mostly schoolgirls, and their fate remains unknown.
“In all cases, the Nigerian authorities have remained shockingly unwilling to investigate these attacks or to ensure that the perpetrators of these callous crimes face justice.
“Every fresh attack is followed by further abductions that deprive school children of their right to liberty – and leave victims’ families with no hope of accessing justice, truth or reparation.
“The Nigerian authorities must take concrete steps to prevent the abduction of children and ensure that those suspected of criminal responsibility face justice in fair trials and rescue the hundreds of children who remain in captivity.”
Similarly, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said since December, 2020, 11,536 school had been closed in Nigeria owing to abductions and security challenges.
UNICEF said the education of 1.3 million children had been affected in less than two years.
In a statement on Thursday to mark the eighth anniversary of the Chibok girls’ abduction, the UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said school abductions and attacks had discouraged children, especially girls, from learning.
He said 60 per cent of the over 10 million out-of-school children in the country were girls. Hawkins further said the spate of attacks in the North West and the North Central had led to the abduction of 1,436 school children, 17 teachers, and the death of 16 school children since December, 2020.
By Fidelis Mac-Leva, Abbas Jimoh & Chidimma C. Okeke