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Life has lost meaning – Chibok girls’ parents

It has been ten years since over 250 girls were taken from the Government Secondary, Chibok. Since then, some of the girls have been recovered.…

It has been ten years since over 250 girls were taken from the Government Secondary, Chibok. Since then, some of the girls have been recovered. But till date, over 80 of the girls are still in captivity. Just like it has been in the past 10 years, today, every year, parents of the victims lament their situation. Some say they do not know whether to keep hoping that one day their children will return or to give up.

With about 80 of the girls still in captivity, outcry over the mass abduction is far from over with the parents and family members insisting that they will keep the struggle alive despite their dwindling number as dozens of them have died either due to depression or other illnesses believed to be trauma induced.

It was gathered that a total of 30 parents have died since the incident, while awaiting the return of their daughters. The chairman of the Chibok Parents Association, Yakubu Nkenki, lamented that as many as over 80 girls are still missing, ten years later.

During an interview with Daily Trust, Nkenki made an appeal to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and all relevant stakeholders to step up efforts to bring the remaining Chibok girls home, while urging the media to keep alive the campaign for their release.

“We want our daughters to return, we don’t mind their condition, whether they are married or they have children with their captors. We still love them and we want them back”, he said.

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“We don’t have the power to do it ourselves; the only thing we can do is to appeal to the authorities to secure the release of our daughters who are still with Boko Haram,” he said.

Some of the parents interviewed said hope was raised when the federal government under the then President Muhammadu Buhari negotiated for the release of 103 of the girls, calling on the government to finish the job it started by ensuring the release of all the girls.

A 50 year old mother, Amina Nkenki, said life has no meaning for her anymore. Her daughter, Hauwa Nkenki was among those taken away ten years ago. She said the incident has affected her physical and mental health.

She said she had a special bond with her daughter whom she had been raising alone since the death of her father, before she was taken away.

“What can I do? I am in pains. My worries will not go away until I see her. My sight is diminishing due to crying and lack of sleep. Her father died when she was an infant. I am the only parent she knows, I raised her alone, only for her to be taken away when she was 19-years- old,” she said.

Amina said although the release of more than a 100 girls’  gave her hope, it also increased her worries. She called on President Bola Ahmad Tinubu to come to her aid.

“I am calling on the president to help return my daughter and the other girls. I want my daughter back and I have no one else to help me”, she added.

Another parent, Mary Shettima, 52, said she has been having constant headaches while her husband became disabled from stroke as their hearts ached, following the calamity that befell their daughter, Margaret Shettima. She urged people of conscience from all over the globe to pray for the safe return of the abducted children and all other people in captivity.

Another mother, Ladi Lawan, said she is being tormented by the absence of their children, but that she is hopeful that the government will rescue them.

“For me and other young parents, we have the strength to withstand the pain, unlike the aged parents. As it is now, some of them have been weighed down by heart-related illnesses and cannot even walk to toilet.

“We are appealing to the government to secure the release of our daughters so that we can reunite with them. As mothers, we always lock ourselves in our rooms and cry out our hearts. The weaker ones among us are dying of hypertension and other heart related diseases,” she said.

Lawan noted that when her daughter, Aisha, was abducted by the insurgents, she was 16-years-old, but will now be a young woman of 26 years.

“And in all these years, I haven’t seen her picture or heard her voice. Before Aisha was abducted by the terrorists, she was the one taking care of all the household chores and cooking the meals. I am in intense pain. In fact, I am hypertensive now,” she said.

Nkeki Mutah is an uncle to two girls who are still in captivity. He said he is the most affected by the over decade-long Boko Haram insurgency in Borno State.

“Two daughters of my brother were abducted. They are my nieces and I share the same pain as their parents, because I was their guardian.

“The government of Nigeria totally failed us and the nation. When the incident occurred, I said, if the Nigerian government is unable to rescue the girls in three months, then we are finished,” he said.

Mutah said the poor handling of the Chibok girls issue was responsible for the series of kidnappings that occurred afterwards.

“It is unfortunate that after ten years, the nation I love so much, cannot rescue our children, including the daughters of my elder brother. You can imagine the state of mind of those of us who are yet to see our daughters and relatives”, he added.

Asked about his thoughts on their status; he said, “I don’t know if they are alive or not. It is government that is supposed to answer that question, because some of the girls rescued revealed that a couple of them were killed either through military raids or birth complications.

“What we need now is for the government to help us verify, through the rescued girls, whether they are dead or alive, so that we can have closure.

“Government should give us closure on this. We cannot continue to live in perpetual pain. I also believe that the agitation will reduce if parents know the fate of their daughters,” he said.

Another victim’s father, Yakubu Kabo, said the incident destabilized him and his business.

Kabo, who gave his daughter’s name as Dorcas, said some of the girls rescued from the Boko Haram enclaves confirmed that his daughter is still alive.

“Some of them said it was Dorcas, who helped them to escape. She led them to a road, where soldiers saw and rescued them,” he said.

He said after the incident, his wife, the mother of Dorcas, developed hypertension and was later diagnosed with heart complications.

“We were referred to a hospital in Abuja, where I spent over N1 million and she’s still battling for her life. They have made life very difficult for us”, he said.

Kabo said he still cannot figure out why his daughter decided to stay back, despite helping other girls to escape. “I don’t know why, but I believe that God will, one day, do His miracle and my daughter will return to me.

“Also, the insurgents call me sometimes and ask about Dorcas siblings at home. They even call them by their names. I give my life to God and He will free my daughter from them. We always pray to God to deliver her and I am confident that He will do it.

He said the last time he saw his daughter was in a YouTube video released by Boko Haram insurgents.

“I will never forget Dorcas. One thing I remember her for is that she always made sure I ate my favorite meals. She used to wash and iron my cloths too. How can I forget such a daughter,” he asked.

Kabo, who used to be a commercial driver, said he sold his car to limit his movement after his daughter’s abduction and to avoid falling victim to terrorist attack as well.

Asked whether the effort of government to recover them is satisfactory, he said, “no, when the incident was fresh, government tried its best, but they are not doing anything now”.

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