A future held in abeyance

Still no sign of kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls
By Mary Ogar

Chibok-protest

It’s been almost 10 harrowing months since the early hours of April 15, 2014, when the violent Boko Haram insurgents invaded the hostels of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State and abducted about 279 girls, who were preparing for their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

 

An unprecedented global outrage had followed. International personalities, including the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama and the youngest Nobel Peace prize winner, Yousafzai Malala lent their voices and held up banners with the popular refrain: #BringBackOurGirls.

Back home, a network of non-governmental organisations, with former Education Minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili joining in, embarked on street protests for days in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

A delegation of women’s groups also met with the National Assembly’s leadership, where promises for the recovery of the girls were made.

After scathing criticisms from around the world about its initial slow response to the abduction, the federal government finally stepped forward and inaugurated a fact-finding committee on May 6, 2014. The committee submitted its report on June 20, affirming that 276 girls were abducted, 57 escaped with 219 still unaccounted for. The government also invited the affected parents to Aso Rock and promised to recover them. Other government officials also gave assurances but the promises have not been fulfilled.

There are fears that the girls have been separated into cluster groups and scattered at different locations, making any rescue attempt difficult and dangerous. The sect has a reputation for brutal killings.

There had been renewed hope last October, when the Presidency and the military announced “a deal” supposedly reached with the insurgents, which included ending of hostilities and “releasing the kidnapped girls.”

But the sect’s elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau promptly released another video shortly after, denying any deal with the federal government. He, in fact, denied knowing Danladi Ahamadu, the so-called “Boko Haram negotiator” discussing with the federal government. He repeated his earlier claim that the girls had “converted to Islam,” and “married off.” He had earlier threatened to sell the girls as slaves.

The embattled federal government has continued to assure Nigerians that the girls would be rescued. Last year, it procured new equipment and technology, such as sophisticated fighter helicopters with in-built night vision technology, to strengthen its armed forces. Some senior Boko Haram commanders have also been captured. Besides, President Goodluck Jonathan has met with the Presidents of Chad, Cameroun, Niger and Benin Republics, asking for their help and cooperation in tackling the insurgency.

However, the insurgents’ guerilla tactics have made their outright defeat difficult.

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