Dreams deferred: Missing Chibok school girls haunt Nigeria government 5 years after

The Buhari administration got fixated on the release of 107 Chibok school girls and abandoned the remaining 112
One of the leaders of civil society groups, Oby Ezekwesili (C), speaks to Nigerian officers about the abducted Chibok school girls during a rally pressing for the girls’ release in Abuja on May 6, 2014, ahead of World Economic Forum. Members of civil society groups marched through the streets of Abuja and to the Nigerian defence headquarters to meet with military chiefs, to press for the release of more than 200 Chibok school girls abducted three weeks ago. Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria’s embattled northeast, residents said on May 6, after the extremist group’s leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month and said in a video he was holding them as “slaves” and threatened to “sell them in the market”. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Five years on with 112 Chibok school girls still in captivity of Boko haram jihadists out of an initial 276 kidnapped, the story of the abduction continues to haunt the Nigerian government, for its inability to keep to its earlier promise of ensuring their safe return.

President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari had in 2015, early days of his first tenure, met with and promised parents of the girls abducted a year before his election in 2014, that he would bring back the abducted girls.

  “Although his government has so far succeeded in bringing back 107 of the girls, the President will not rest until the remaining are reunited with their families. President Buhari assures the parents that his administration is still on the matter.” Garba Shehu, a spokesman of the president said in a statement Saturday.

Activists keep the flame burning

Activists and other social crusaders have continued to organise rallies to keep up the flame. At a commemorative meeting on Sunday to mark the fifth anniversary in the nation’s capital, Abuja,  Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), an advocacy group birthed by the abduction said it was the shame of a nation that the government and military authorities were yet to fully fulfil their promise, five years on.

“It is now 5 years since the abduction of 276 #ChibokGirls from school.

For #5YearsTooLong, 112 #ChibokGirls have remained in captivity. This tragedy is the #ShameOfANation. Our demand today is the same as it was 5 years ago – #BringBackOurGirls now & alive”, a BBOG tweet read.

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Dr. Emman Shehu, a leader of the BBOG movement has been at the forefront of the call for the rescue of the school girls abducted in war ravaged parts of northeastern Nigeria that has seen many men, women and children also abducted by Boko haram and its factions such as the Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP.

He said the Buhari administration got fixated on the release of 107 Chibok school girls and abandoned the remaining 112 currently in captivity.

“It’s like after that it lost all seriousness in terms of getting the remaining 112”, Shehu said of the government’s negotiation strategies in an interview with News Central. “This was worsened by the fact that the same abduction happened again in Dapchi. A number of girls were taken and as of now, one of the girls is still with the terrorists.” The campaigner added.

Frail and failing negotiations

“In a nation where there is no connection of the national interest, everybody works for some insignificant and personal reasons, and this is what we get.” A security source associated with the negotiations, who would prefer not to be named, told News Central in an interview on why talks with insurgents have lingered.

He said the Boko haram terrorists were refusing to let go of the remain

112 school girls in captivity, after having released 107 earlier, because of various political and military interests all aimed at profiteering from the insurgency that began ten years ago.

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The West Africa jihadists have used gender-based violence by abducting mostly women and children as a means of putting governments within the region in precarious negotiating positions and as a means of seeking global media attention. Cameroon, Niger and Chad are not left out of the group’s abduction tactics.

“Both women and men are targeted across regions. They are exploited to different ends, whether paraded as slaves as in (Boko haram leader) Shekau’s videos of captured women, or to demonstrate ‘mercy,’ and appeal to local Muslim audiences, as in the case of ISWAP’s abductions of more than a hundred mainly Muslim schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe state, in 2018.

The only Christian, Leah Sharibu, remains a captive, having refused to convert.” wrote Elizabeth Pearson in a piece for Defense Post to mark the fifth anniversary of the Chibok abduction.

But as the anniversary campaign got underway on Sunday in Abuja, many activists were optimistic that the remaining 112 girls will be rescued, even though they won’t give a timeline.

“Five years after tragedy and Muhammadu Buhari fails them and their parents. It is a grand shame. Five years came. They shall never be forgotten by us.” Oby Ezekwesili, lead campaigner at the BBOG said while knocking the Buhari administration for failing the remaining girls in captivity.

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The group surprised Nigerians who showed up at Abuja’s popular Unity Fountain for the anniversary. Many empty school desks were all spread out at the rally venue to signify not only the missing 112 girls but also a loss of access to education.

“Today’s 5-year anniversary reminds us that we must not lose hope for the 112 #ChibokGirls still held captive and everyone suffering from #BokoHaram’s #ReignOfTerror. #BBOG” wrote US Congresswoman, Frederica Wilson who has supported the advocacy in the United States to free the abducted girls.

“Mr. President, our Daughters need to be rescued. 5 years on, our community is still under constant attack.” Dauda Iliya, a representative of Chibok Community said in a statement he read at the venue, seeking President Buhari’s attention to fully end the insurgency and siege on their communities by terrorists.

President Buhari had on Saturday in his statement used the “opportunity of the commemoration of the Chibok tragedy to commend the girls, now women, who have triumphed over it all.”

While the families of the abducted girls remain in pains, previous security reports by the government indicate that some of the girls had refused to be rescued, a decision to side with their abductors that has left many wondering if a closure would eventually be brought on the saga.

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