Three years of Chibok girls
It is like yesterday, but it is three years since Chibok made history with the kidnap of 276 students from the Government Girls Secondary School.
This ugly incident, which took place on the night of April 14, 2014, sparked global outrage and a celebrity-backed campaign #bringbackourgirls.
The campaign has been sustained till date in the quest to consistently put pressure on duty bearers to rise up to the occasion, and bring back the girls safe and alive. Unfortunately, till date most of the school girls are still missing. Only about 57 managed to escape in the immediate aftermath of the abduction. Another three were freed by soldiers with one of the girls found with a baby last May. Another two girls were found later which fuelled hopes of their safety. Negotiations between the Federal Government and Boko Haram reported to have been brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Switzerland led to the release of a group of 21 of the school girls in October 2016.
It is deeply shocking that three years after this deplorable and devastating act of violence, the majority of the girls are still missing! Indeed, apprehension has heightened; despite assurances from the government that negotiations for the release of the remaining girls are on-going and that it is doing everything within its powers to rescue the girls.
Anyway, it is gratifying to note that progress has been made in spite of some people’s pessimism.To show that the government is on top of the situation and doing its best to rescue the missing girls, sometime ago it took the BBOG campaigners on a tour of Sambisa forest. Having been allowed first-hand experience of what may be termed ‘situational reality’ in the theatre of war against insurgency, the BBOG campaigners, formally reported that ‘We can confirm that the air component of the counter-insurgency war is being prosecuted by a highly professional, capable, motivated, and committed team of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).’ The team added that ‘our exposure to the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform and the technical room of the NAF indicated the level of adoption of technology in the prosecution of the war.’
Contrary to the popular perception that the efforts to save the girls may be inadequate, this report of the team claimed to see evidence that ‘the search for the Chibok girls and other abducted citizens is a daily activity by the NAF.
So, the efforts of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and their civilian counterparts, who have been paying the heavy price to contain the terrorists, must be praised. Also, the roles of the International Committee of the Red Cross/ Crescent ICRC, the Swiss Government and other international bodies as well as foreign governments must be acknowledged.
However, the government can do more with the support of the international community to locate and rescue the remaining girls. All efforts should therefore concentrate on bringing them, and indeed every citizen, back from captivity and restoring peace to conflict areas in order for this government to claim to have fulfilled its constitutionally defined primary purpose. As such, the Nigerian military should increase the tempo of its rescue efforts including negotiation until every girl is accounted for. That is the only way the government can prove pessimists wrong and prove to Nigerians that it is alive to its responsibilities in the area of security and welfare of the people, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. Furthermore, the government should be sensitive to the sensibilities of the Chibok community and the parents of the abducted girls, by revisiting the lines of communication with them. So, there should be continuous engagement with Chibok’s leadership, parents of the abducted girls and government. The abducted Chibok girls’ parents who have been in agony for three years waiting for the return of their children must be made to keep hope alive. For the Chibok community, government should rehabilitate the entire community by reuniting people fully with their families; reintegrating the freed girls into normal life; rebuilding their schools, and providing care for the injured. Meanwhile, the world must not for one second stop singing: Bring back our girls!