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Chibok girls… the puzzle and the wait

Chibok

Chibok

Yesterday April 14 was exactly two years when 276 female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.
In this report, AJIBOLA AMZAT (Features Editor), TANBA STEPHEN and  VICTORIA OLISA re-enact the experience of the family of the victims, the negligence of the Nigerian government and the trauma the crime foisted on the psyche of the world community.

Yana Galang, a mother of one of the girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram insurgent two years ago, recognised her in the latest video released by the terror group and screened before the parents by CNN during the week. Instantly, she was overwhelmed by anguish and broke down in tears.

The footage, which was the first to be seen since May 2014 was released by the insurgents perhaps to show the world that the girls are safe, but the image elicited a pang of pain and flood of tears instead. Galang sobbed uncontrollably in front of the CNN camera, and so did the other parents of the abducted girls.

It has been like that for the past two years for the parents of the missing girls. Some have even died in their grief.

According to the Chairman of the Chibok Community Development Association, Pogus Bitrus, not fewer than 14 parents of the abducted girls have died.
Bitrus associated the death to the hopelessness of parents in seeing their daughter again.

At the beginning, the Federal Government did not believe the girls were kidnapped, and the denial exacerbated the hopelessness of the parents of the victims.

The Senior Special Aide to President Jonathan on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe said the kidnap of the Chibok girls was orchestrated in order to characterise his principal as incompetent and to prevent him from winning 2015 elections.

Such thinking may have explained the delayed response of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency.

According to Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, it took 19 days after the girls were abducted before President Jonathan called on him.

The governor said, ‘‘It took global protest which made the Jonathan Presidency to come under criticism from the international community. The FG didn’t show any concern before May, 2014 whereas the abduction took place on April 14, 2014.”

That was about four weeks or thereabout, and by then the girls had been taken further into the Sambisa Forest.

The Chibok girls’ abduction indeed triggered the global social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls, involving US first lady, Michelle Obama; the Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai; the recording artist and entrepreneur, Puff Daddy and many others.

Despite their efforts, most of the girls are yet to be rescued two years after.

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Of course, there was a period of blame game between FG and the government of Borno State. The latter was accused of negligence for holding West
Africa Examination Council (WAEC) exam in Chibok School despite the threat of terror in the state.  But the governor was quick to explain that Chibok was one of the places that had no known security threats as at the time the abduction took place.

The state government rather blamed the Federal Government of the dereliction of duty and failing to protect the people of Borno State despite the resources within its control to fight terrorism.

Not many critics spared the administration of President Jonathan including the former British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock who in an interview with The Sunday Times, UK Newspaper said that 80 of the girls could have been rescued by the British government had the Nigerian government sought assistance.

He said despite all the BBOG campaigns in London and the White House, the British and American troops could not immediately rescue the girls because the Nigerians never asked.

But could a Western-backed military intervention have rescued the Chibok girls, BBC recently asked.

Pocock’s comment put the lid on that possibility. He said the safety of the girls would have been of utmost priority as it would have been very risky to invade Sambisa to carry out any rescue operation.

Considering botched rescue efforts made by the Western forces in Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the success rate of the Western forces certainly does not look promising.

This circumstance, there, places the main responsibility on the national government, a responsibility which the previous administration abdicated according to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He blamed President Jonathan for ignoring the distress call on the mass kidnap of the girls, saying, Jonathan did not respond to the call until after 72 hours.

Though a few of Chibok girls have already escaped from their captors, Obasanjo has warned the nation of the unlikelihood of rescuing the rest.

According to him, the girls may never be found because their whereabouts remain unknown.
Observers think the release of the new video by Boko Haram group   controverts the assumption of the people who think the girls are dead or lost forever.

But are the Nigerian army better equipped today to rescue the Chibok girls, especially at this time when the girls may have been divided into different groups according to intelligence experts.

The recent video showing the 15 girls could be a proof that the girls are already split in a group of 15, security experts believe.

In an interview granted CNN by the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed, he disclosed that the government is following every lead, but refused to give the details of the activities embarked on so as not to undermine negotiation process.  Notwithstanding, the minister implied that negotiation with the terrorists is in the mix.

Intelligence report indicates that government is, however, wary of opening negotiation with splinter groups   to avoid manufacturing a billion-naira industry similar to the status quo during the previous administration.
As the group marked the 2-year anniversary of the kidnap of Chibok girl, a BBOG campaigner, Aisha Yesufu thinks the government is lacking credible Intelligence.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Yesufu said, it is the duty of the Nigerian government to rescue the Chibok girls, irrespective of who the President is.

She said the government will not be doing the Chibok girls “a favour” by rescuing them, but it is their responsibility as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria “to ensure the Chibok girls are brought back home”.

She also expressed her displeasure at the Minister of Information’s comment concerning the Chibok girls proof of life video.
Notwithstanding, the Movement is not relenting in their campaign to secure the release of the abducted girls. “The fight for Chibok girls is a fight for the soul of Nigeria,” their red t-shirts scream.

On the contrary, the spokesperson of the BringBackOurGirls coalition, Tunji Olanrewaju, noted that the Buhari government has made more effort towards finding the missing Chibok girls than ex- President Jonathan ever did.

“We believe strongly that the delay is a strong factor, no doubt about that and it was the reason why we say the government needs to do something, act faster and be more creative in how they go about it.

“Experts are of the opinion that in the case of abduction if a rescue mission is not launched within the first 48 hours, the chances of successful rescue diminishes. Because of the doubt that permeated the government at that time, the right thing was not done and that is the reason we are where we are today.

“The first official response did not happen until after 18 days and then, the fact-finding committee was set up on the 19th day of the abduction, the implication was that the government was in doubt about the abduction and it was after the fact-finding committee submitted its report that we had an official response from the government that 219 school girls were abducted. That was how we came about the 219 girls; it was the Sabo committee that established that fact.”

Mr. Adeola Oyeleke, a Principal Partner at Crown-Cannan Attorney, Lagos   in an interview with The Guardian said,   so far the Buhari administration has been effective.

He, however, expressed doubt about the possibility of a significant achievement in the nearest future.

“Can the entire girls be rescued in their complete numbers?

Note that most of these girls have been exposed to a lot of dangers; some are reportedly used as suicide bombers, some killed, or sold out as sex slaves.”

Last year, the European Parliament said it was ready to help the Nigerian government in its effort to rescue the abducted 219 Chibok girls and curbing the insurgency of the Northeast.

This was disclosed by some delegates from the parliament who joined the #BringBackOurGirls group sit-out at the Unity Fountain, Abuja.
But this promise is yet to materialise.

Barrister Ayo Ademiluyi, a child right lawyer in an interview with The Guardian said both the British and America governments that claimed that they know the whereabouts of the girls but find it difficult to disclose it to the Nigerian government are involved in the conspiracy against the girls and their parents. “Who is fooling who? Are there parallel lines between terrorism and imperialism?

“We need an all-embracing mobilisation strategy that can overthrow and defeat the system that put the lives of the people in the hands of the minority at the expense of the majority.”

One of the girls in the video, Naomi Zakaria, appealed to the Federal Government to help get the girls back to their families.
How soon this will happen remains a matter of speculation.



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