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Chibok abduction at 10: Never again

Today, April 14, 2024, marks the tenth anniversary of a national disaster. It coincides with the day Boko Haram terrorists dressed in military uniforms abducted…

Today, April 14, 2024, marks the tenth anniversary of a national disaster. It coincides with the day Boko Haram terrorists dressed in military uniforms abducted 276 final year school girls in a nighttime raid from their dormitory in Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. About 50 of the girls escaped immediately by jumping out of the lorries, in which they were being transported to the kidnappers den. It is, however, a national embarrassment that 10 years later, about 90 of the girls  are still missing and unaccounted for.

This unprecedented act of terrorism and brazen impunity was at first denied by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It was the global outrage spurred by the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, championed by among others, then United States First Lady, Michelle Obama and Nobel peace laureate, Malala Yusafzai, that galvanized the government to commit to rescuing the girls. After negotiations with the terrorists, about 100 of the girls were released in 2016 and 2017. While some of them have been sponsored to study in universities both locally and as far as the United States of America, a lot of the rescued girls are still waiting for the promised sponsorship with some of them raising kids fathered by their Boko Haram abductors.

As girls in this first batch are struggling to gain the acceptance of their communities, more had been rescued in recent years, but are yet to return to their families. They are being kept in a military rehabilitation center in Borno State, together with their surrendered Boko Haram husbands. This has prolonged the suffering of their families as the government has not produced a timeline for their integration into their communities.

According to the Murtala Muhammad Foundation, about 30 of the still missing girls have died in captivity.

“Some died of childbirth, some of starvation or snakebite, others in government air strikes,” said Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, the foundation’s head. Regrettably, parents in the Chibok community are still living in trauma without knowing whether their daughters are dead or alive, 10 years after being abducted.

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Unfortunately, the Chibok girls’ abduction became a precursor for a spate of mass kidnappings that has now become a lucrative business across the country. According to the charity organisation, Save the Children, more than 1,680 students have been kidnapped in the last 10 years in Nigeria.

On February 18, 2018, Boko Haram abducted 110 girls from a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State.  One hundred and four of the school girls were rescued after a month in captivity, while five of them were killed. One of them, Leah Sharibu, is still being held by her abductors for refusing to denunciate her Christian faith.

On December 11, 2020, gunmen abducted 344 boys from Government Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State. They were freed six days later after negotiations with the bandits.

On February 17, 2021, bandits kidnapped 27 students and 15 others from a Science Secondary School in Kagara, Niger State. They were released more than a week later after negotiations.

On February 26, 2021, more than 300 female students were abducted from the Government Secondary School Jangebe, Zamfara State. All of them were released in early March.

On March 11, 2021, gunmen abducted 23 female and 16 male students from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State. They were released between April and May.

On April 20, 2021, armed bandits abducted 20 students from Greenfield University, Kaduna State. Many were released but five were killed reportedly to speed up ransom negotiations.

And on July 5, 2021, more than 100 students were abducted from Bethel Baptist High School Chikun, Kaduna State. They were released in batches after several months.

Also on March 7, 2024, gunmen kidnapped 137 students from Government Secondary School Kuriga, Kaduna State. They were rescued after 17 days.

Students from a Qur’anic school in Gidan Bakuso, Sokoto State, were also abducted on March 9, 2024. They were released after four days.

This litany of mass abductions signifies the failure of government at all levels to protect the lives of Nigerians. While we acknowledge that lots of victims of mass abduction have been released, we reiterate that there is no reason to allow kidnappings to occur in the first place.

Also, while the government insists that it is not paying ransom in order to avoid instituting a vicious cycle of using the huge payouts to carry out more kidnaps, Nigerians wonder how kidnappers could be made to release their victims with neither payment or exchange of fire. In addition, we have not seen reports of these mass abductors being tried and convicted before courts of law.

We, at Daily Trust, therefore, call on the government and all security forces to take this tenth anniversary of the Chibok girls abduction as a wake-up call to bring about the end of kidnappings throughout the country via coordinated intelligence and use of modern technology.

We also urge the government to enhance communications with the parents and relatives of victims of kidnap in order to ameliorate the trauma associated with these catastrophic events.

As for the 90 remaining Chibok girls that are still unaccounted for, we call on government to take every measure necessary to bring them back, and be truthful to parents of those who have lost their lives on the state of their children/ wards. This would help ensure closure and allow the recuperation process to start.

On the spate of kidnappings ravaging the nooks and crannies of this country, we say to the government, do whatever it takes to prevent future occurrences and punish the culprits and their shadowy supporters.

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