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A decade of hope, heartache over Chibok girls

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Musa Umar Bologi

In the tranquil town of Chibok, Borno State, the echoes of April 14, 2014, still reverberate through the community’s collective memory. It was on this fateful night that terror descended upon Government Girls’ Secondary School, shattering the peace and forever altering the lives of 276 innocent schoolgirls. As the world commemorates the tenth anniversary of their abduction, MUSA UMAR BOLOGI writes that it’s an opportune moment to reflect on the unfortunate saga of the Chibok girls—a tale of resilience, courage and unwavering hope amid adversity

In Borno State, where the echoes of conflict and strife continue to resonate, there exists a tale that transcends the boundaries of time and space—a narrative that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable adversity. It is the story of the Chibok girls, whose abduction on April 14, 2014, thrust them into the heart of a global crisis, capturing the world’s attention and igniting a fervent call for justice and solidarity. As the world marks the 10th anniversary of this tragic event, it is incumbent upon all freedom lovers to reflect deeply on the enduring impact of the abduction of the Chibok girls—not merely as a distant memory relegated to the annals of history, but as a stark reminder of the persistent challenges faced by millions of individuals caught in the crossfires of conflict and violence.The events of that fateful night remain seared into the collective consciousness of a country grappling with the stark realities of insecurity and instability. The brazen assault on Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok served as a chilling testament to the ruthlessness of extremist groups such as Boko Haram, whose reign of terror has left an indelible mark on communities across the region. For the families of the abducted girls, the intervening years have been marked by anguish, uncertainty and unyielding hope. Despite the passage of time, the pain of separation lingers, as they continue to await news of their loved ones’ fate with bated breath and unwavering faith.

While the world watched in horror as the plight of the Chibok girls unfolded, it also bore witness to a remarkable display of resilience, courage, and solidarity. From the grassroots campaigns demanding their release to the tireless advocacy efforts of activists and organisations, the global response to the abduction served as a powerful testament to the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. In the aftermath of the abduction, some of the girls have been fortunate enough to regain their freedom, thanks to daring escapes and negotiated releases. Yet, the painful truth remains that many others remain in captivity, their voices silenced and their dreams deferred.

The events of that harrowing night remain etched in the minds of survivors, witnesses and families whose lives were irrevocably changed. In the darkness of night, armed militants from the notorious Boko Haram insurgent group stormed the school premises, unleashing chaos and instilling fear in the hearts of the unsuspecting girls. With swift and calculated precision, they abducted hundreds of schoolgirls, leaving behind a community plunged into anguish and disbelief. For the families of the abducted girls, the ensuing days and weeks were marked by anguish and uncertainty as they grappled with the agonising reality of their loved ones’ captivity. Desperate pleas for their safe return echoed across the country and reverberated globally, galvanising an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity and support from individuals, organisations and governments worldwide.

Even with the passage of time, the fate of the Chibok girls remains a poignant reminder of the ongoing plight faced by countless victims of conflict and violence in Nigeria’s volatile Northeast region. While some of the girls have been fortunate enough to regain their freedom through daring escapes or negotiated releases, the painful truth is that many others continue to languish in captivity, their futures hanging precariously in the balance.

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Despite the release of 180 children and the escape of others since their abduction on April 14, 2014, a harrowing reality persists: 96 of the Chibok girls remain in captivity. This enduring captivity, alongside the abduction of numerous other children by non-state armed groups, underscores the protracted nature of the crisis. The plight of the remaining Chibok girls serves as a poignant reminder that the conflict in Northeast Nigeria, which began in 2009, shows no signs of abating. This ongoing crisis has precipitated one of the world’s most severe humanitarian emergencies, with devastating repercussions for children across the region. Moreover, the abduction of children in other parts of the country, particularly in the Northwest and Northcentral regions, by armed groups further compounds the complexity of the situation. These abductions serve as a stark indication that the crisis extends beyond the borders of Northeast Nigeria, permeating other regions and perpetuating a cycle of fear and insecurity.

As the conflict rages on, its impact on the lives of children cannot be overstated. The prolonged displacement, loss of loved ones and exposure to violence have left an indelible mark on an entire generation, robbing them of their childhoods and impeding their access to education, healthcare, and other essential services. In light of these stark realities, it is imperative that concerted efforts be made to address the root causes of the conflict, protect vulnerable populations, and facilitate the safe return of abducted children. Only through sustained commitment to peacebuilding, reconciliation, and humanitarian assistance can we hope to mitigate the suffering endured by the children of Nigeria and pave the way for a brighter, more secure future.

Boko Haram, a militant group in Nigeria, seeks to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state governed by its misguided interpretation of Sharia law. However, it gained global notoriety primarily due to the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014. This crisis has exposed countless children to violence and unspeakable atrocities. Many have been forcefully abducted, with some coerced into marriage and others used as suicide bombers. Moreover, the conflict has displaced over 2.5 million people, including more than 1 million children, who have been uprooted from their homes in search of safety and security.

The escalating assaults on schools in Northeast Nigeria by diverse armed factions constitute a deeply concerning pattern, depriving 1.15 million children of their fundamental right to education. As reported by the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria, a staggering 1,500 schools closed their doors due to these attacks, with 910 educational facilities ravaged and over 19,000 educators displaced from 2009 to 2022. Tragically, these assaults have exacted a devastating toll, claiming the lives of more than 2,295 teachers.

Released 180 girls
Following the negotiated release of 180 Chibok girls from captivity, their plight remained a global rallying cry. The government vowed to sponsor their education in “any field of their choice.” Some of the freed captives have pursued university education, with a few even studying abroad in countries like the United States. However, allegations have surfaced that the promised government assistance never materialised for some of these individuals.

Amid ongoing pressure, particularly intensified during the anniversary of the girls’ abduction, former President Muhammadu Buhari repeatedly vowed to secure the release of all remaining girls alive. Approximately 90 Chibok girls are still believed to be missing, as reported by former abductees and the parents’ association for the Chibok girls. Their estimates suggest that dozens may have perished under various circumstances. Some succumbed during childbirth, others to starvation or snakebites, while some lost their lives in government airstrikes targeting Boko Haram, according to accounts from former abductees like Aisha Muhammad. However, the government has remained silent on the number of missing Chibok girls presumed to still be alive.

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Agitation continues: CAN urges Fed Govt to do more

Every April 14 serves as a solemn reminder of the ongoing tragedy that has befallen Northeast Nigeria, particularly its impact on the region’s children. Each passing year, numerous non-governmental organisations tirelessly raise awareness, compelling the government to confront the plight of those children still held captive and the persistent threat of abduction facing schoolchildren across the nation. Despite assurances from previous administrations, the heart-breaking reality remains unchanged: the 90 Chibok schoolgirls abducted years ago still endure captivity.

As we mark the sombre milestone of the 10th anniversary of the Chibok girls’ abduction, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) urgently calls upon the federal government to escalate its efforts and take decisive action to liberate these young girls still held captive by the merciless grip of Boko Haram terrorists. CAN’s National Director for Education, Youth, and Women Development, Dean Rev. Ozumba Nicodemus, eloquently underscores the solemn duty incumbent upon our nation: to secure the safe return of the abducted Chibok girls and to finally bring an end to the harrowing anguish and suffering endured not only by these innocent young girls but also by their grieving families.

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He said: “The case of the Chibok girls is one that cannot be swept under the carpet, as it represents a horrific tragedy that has left an indelible mark on the nation’s conscience. The trauma experienced by the 276 abducted girls from Nigeria is unimaginable. The pain and anguish felt by their parents, who have endured sleepless nights filled with hopelessness, are deeply felt by CAN. We cannot remain silent while their children remain in captivity, yearning for freedom and reunion with their families.

“CAN hereby reiterates its unwavering demand for the government to intensify efforts and take decisive action to rescue the remaining children still held hostage. It is our duty as a nation to ensure their safe return and to bring an end to the anguish and suffering endured by these innocent young girls and their families.”

CAN further emphasises the urgent need for the government to mobilise all available resources, engage relevant security agencies and forge partnerships with international allies to swiftly secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls. Time is of the essence, and every possible effort must be exerted without delay to bring these young girls back to safety and reunite them with their families.

“This is not only a matter of national importance but also a test of our commitment to upholding the rights and safety of our citizens, particularly the most vulnerable among us. Furthermore, we implore the international community, humanitarian organisations, and well-meaning individuals to join hands with CAN in advocating for the release of the Chibok girls. Together, we can amplify our voices and exert greater pressure on the abductors to bring an end to this prolonged ordeal. CAN remains resolute in its commitment to seeking justice and ensuring the safe return of the Chibok girls,” Nicodemus said.

How many Chibok girls remain in captivity?
Despite the immense local and international attention focused on the plight of the Chibok girls, doubts have arisen among analysts regarding the accurate count of victims still held in captivity. While numerous girls have been liberated by security agencies and some managed to escape, others may have tragically perished in captivity. These uncertainties regarding the true number of students yet to experience freedom were further fuelled by a recent kidnapping incident in Kuriga, Kaduna State. Initial media reports indicated a staggering figure of 287 schoolchildren abducted in March. However, upon the successful rescue operation, it was revealed that the actual number of kidnapped students stood at 137—a discrepancy that has remained uncontested. This revelation underscores the complexity of assessing and reporting such incidents accurately, prompting a critical re-evaluation of information dissemination and verification processes in addressing these harrowing situations.

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While commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Chibok girls in New York, the Brooklyn College Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) organisation issued a powerful plea to the Nigerian government to escalate efforts in rescuing the remaining girls. They pledged to compile and publish a list of the 91 Chibok girls still held captive by Boko Haram, urging everyone to join in praying for their safe rescue and reunion with their families. The government spoke through its Commissioner for Information and Internal Security, Prof. Usman Tar, at a press conference in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

Tar said: “We shall not rest on our oars until the last of our innocent girls are back home with their families. On this auspicious occasion of the 10th anniversary of the abduction of Chibok girls, the Borno State Government identifies and sympathises with all those who are affected by the abduction. The Government wishes to inform the public that we shall continue to struggle to salvage our abducted girls on behalf of the parents and relatives of the Chibok girls who are still in captivity.

“The Borno State Government is committed to rescuing and reuniting the remaining Chibok girls and reuniting them with their families. We understand the pain and anguish that the families of those still in captivity are going through, this is our sorrow! We also wish to use this occasion to take stock of the rescued girls and provide an update on how the girls are coming to terms with adjusting to normal life after captivity, and efforts of the Borno State Government to sustain the momentum on the rescue of the remaining girls.”

He noted that so far, 187 out of the 276 abducted Chibok girls have been rescued and reunited with their families, adding that most of the rescued girls have, over the years, been enrolled in different schools or graduated under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs. “A number of the girls have been enrolled into local and foreign scholarships or empowerment programmes. Many have since been reunited with their immediate families and are continuing to receive psycho-social support to reconcile them with normal life.”

Meanwhile, the Borno State Government assured the parents of the abducted girls that it remains unwavering in its commitment to securing the release of every innocent girl held by Boko Haram. Their promise echoes the resolute determination to tirelessly pursue the return of these girls until they are safely reunited with their loved ones.


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