‘We refuse to move on’, 91 Chibok girls’ parents tell Tinubu’s wife, seek intervention

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    guardian.ng

    Ten years after enduring raised hopes and dashed promises of seeing their loved ones return, parents of the 91 remaining girls of the 2014 Chibok school abduction in Borno State have written to the wife of the President, Mrs Oluremi Tinubu, seeking her intervention.

    They noted that authorities have not lived up to promises to secure every girl’s return or put a stop to mass kidnappings. Nigeria is, however, still facing a resurgence of mass abductions. The anniversary of Boko Haram’s infamous attack comes after two large-scale kidnappings – one in the same northeastern state as Chibok, the other in northwestern Kaduna State, where over 130 children were seized from their school in March.

    The Chibok parents, in an open letter, captioned: “A plea for justice and remembering the Chibok Girls,” which was made available to newsmen in Lagos yesterday, lamented that the horrific circumstances had weighed heavily on them in the last decade.

    The parents, in the letter signed by Yana Galang and Mallam Zanna for and on behalf of Chibok Parents Association and those whose children are yet to return, noted that while the world might have moved on, “but for us, the pain remains raw, and the wounds refuse to heal. We are haunted by the memories of that night when our girls were taken from us, and everyday we pray for their safe return.

    “We have not lost hope, Your Excellency. We have not given up on our daughters, and we will continue to fight for their freedom until they are brought back to us. We urge you to use your influence and your platform to ensure that the plight of the Chibok girls is never forgotten, that justice is served, and that those responsible for this heinous act are held accountable.”

    The parents also sought an opportunity to meet with the First Lady, to seek her assistance in advocating for the safe return of their daughters.
    “We ask for your empathy and understanding as we navigate through this unimaginable pain. We ask for your commitment to standing by us and never forgetting the 276 girls who were taken from their school that night.”

    April 14 will make it 10 years since the abduction of the schoolgirls from the dormitory of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, a hitherto unknown rural town in Borno State, but now a global name. Sadly, 96 of the 276 abducted girls remain unaccounted for.

    The Chibok abduction, which to date remains Boko Haram’s most reported act, was what brought the terrorist group to global infamy. Boko Haram leader at the time, Abubakar Shekau, had admitted to the abduction of the girls, claiming that it was a reaction to the imprisonment of Boko Haram members by the Nigerian government.

    The abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls led to the coinage of the global rallying cry, ‘Bring Back Our Girls’, a quote taken from a speech that former education minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili made on TV. It turned into a famous hashtag on social media, driving a movement for the return of the girls.

    Global leaders supported the campaign, including former First Lady, Michelle Obama, who promised that the U.S. government would help to find the missing girls. In 2015, newly inaugurated President Muhammadu Buhari, promised to rescue the hostages from Boko Haram but succeeded in the immediate time only in reclaiming territories that Boko Haram had captured in the previous years.

    The Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) led negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, following which in October 2016, 21 of the Chibok girls were released and in May 2017, another set of 82 were released in exchange for five Boko Haram suspects.

    But mothers in Chibok say they cannot move on and have received little support. Dozens of parents have died since their daughters were taken and the stress from years of waiting only adds to the hardship of life in one of the world’s poorest places.

    “My daughter will be back soon,” said Galang, clasping her hands in her lap. “I live in hope.”
    TEN years on, the mass kidnapping of citizens, especially pupils has not abated. More than 1,680 pupils were kidnapped in Nigerian schools from early 2014 to the end of 2022, according to the charity Save the Children.

    Also, close to 1,000 people have been kidnapped in Nigeria in the first three months of 2024 alone, amid an epidemic of attacks that have become the country’s most potent security threat.

    According to a report released recently by SBM Intelligence, Nigeria has witnessed at least 735 mass abductions with 15,398 people abducted since 2019. It also said it had recorded 4,777 people abducted since President Bola Tinubu took office in May last year. SBM defines a mass abduction event as a “kidnapping incident in which criminal gangs or terrorists seize five or more victims at once.”

    According to the report titled “Mass Abductions: The Catastrophe of Nigeria’s Kidnap Epidemic,” 2024 alone has seen at least 68 mass abductions, averaging about one per day, with a victim count exceeding the entire years of 2019 and 2020 combined.

    Kaduna State leads the pack with the most incidents (132) and victims (3,969), followed closely by Zamfara, then Katsina, these states located in the Northwest are most affected by banditry.

    “Contrary to the government’s claims, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province—the dominant Boko Haram faction—continues to hold territory in both Borno and Yobe states. The other faction, Jama’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihad (JAS), now led by Shekau’s loyalists, has been significantly weakened after losing territories to the Nigerian military and ISWAP.

    “Reduced to a ragtag militia with limited resources and operational capacity, the group resorts to mass abductions of women, girls, and young boys to bolster its fleeting resources and personnel. This played out in the kidnapping of more than 300 IDPs in a displacement camp in Gamboru town of Ngala, Borno State, on March 3 March,” SBM said.

    Many of the kidnappings have been committed by groups called ‘bandits,’ of which 3,000 to 5,000 are believed to be active, operating from forests in north and central Nigeria, according to security analysts.

    In the other parts of the North, bandit gangs are responsible for mass abductions. In rural Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara, kingpins instruct gang members to raid villages for two significant reasons: failure to pay imposed levies and the need for manpower in the farms owned and controlled by the bandit kingpins.

    According to SBM, kidnapping has become an attractive option for criminals due to its relatively low-risk, high-reward nature. With just a small team and locally manufactured rifles, perpetrators can execute abductions with alarming ease.

    The inability of Nigeria’s security agencies to effectively combat kidnapping reflects a broader failure within the country’s security architecture. This failure is not solely due to external threats, but also internal sabotage, with some state officials implicated in collusion with or support for kidnappers, the firm said.

    “The Federal Government hasn’t learnt anything – they’ve completely moved on,” said Jeff Okoroafor from the Bring Back Our Girls campaign group. “That’s why the kidnappers had the temerity to abduct schoolchildren from Kaduna last month.”

     

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