Today is exactly 2,000 days since the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014. The town of Chibok has never been the same since the infamous abduction of schoolgirls that attracted global attention to it over five years ago. While some of the schoolgirls have been found, at least 113 are still missing, and it is not yet clear if they are still alive.
It is also not clear whether they have been married off, or under whose custody they are, considering the changes that occurred in the ranks of the Boko Haram, the violent group that abducted them during the sole leadership of Abubakar Shekau. Hours after the abduction on April 14, 57 of the girls found their way back home, and some years later, a few others escaped captivity, while government negotiated with the abductors and freed over 100.
A group, the Abducted Girls Parents’ Movement for Rescue, in its relentless effort to secure freedom of the remaining 113 captives, has been reaching out to relevant authorities and non-governmental organisations that played one role or the other in the previous negotiations. Women leader of the group, Mrs Yana Galang, whose daughter is among the 113 still in captivity, lamented that concerned authorities are allegedly not much concerned about freeing their daughters. “We were frequently being invited to Abuja for talks while government was facilitating negotiations that led to the freedom of those over 100 girls,” she said. “But since a batch of 83 girls was released two years ago, nobody has ever contacted us again for any talks about rescuing the remaining ones,” she said.
“I have suffered a lot from insurgency,” Rachael Daniel, mother of Rose who is still in captivity, said. “My husband, Daniel, was first killed along Dikwa highway. And later, my daughter, Rose Daniel, 17, was kidnapped at GSS Chibok. “Life is frustrating; I think life is not fair to me; I am always depressed,” she said. Mr Ayuba Alamson doubles as a guardian of his abducted sister and spokesman for parents of Chibok girls. The sister, Hadiza Kwagui, was, however, among the first set of escapees while been led into Sambisa forest by their abductors on the fateful day. Mr Alamson expressed another form of grief and dejection suffered by the freed girls and their parents, following government’s alleged failure to fulfil its promise of sponsoring their education. His sister, Hadiza, sat for her secondary school examination, full of hope that government was sponsoring her higher education. “Unfortunately, since they wrote their WAEC and NECO at Bethel International School in Jos, they have been abandoned till date,” Alamson said.
According to him, “In fact, Hadiza is in the village now and some of her friends have gotten married out of frustration. Some of these girls are now farming in the village despite what we heard that they had been offered scholarships to study up to degree level,” he lamented. However, Yana Galang, who is the woman leader of the parents’ association of the abducted Chibok girls, thanked the federal government for securing the release of more than 100 of the abducted schoolgirls, but said those who are yet to see their daughters are still grieving. She said her daughter, Rifkatu Galam, is still with the insurgents, adding “My daughter was 18 when the abductors took her away.”
Life in Chibok Bad roads and multiple military check points make the journey to Chibok quite frustrating. Visitors are usually made to disembark from their vehicles and walk through road blocks as soldiers insist on identification and clear destination of visitors. A highly militarised town, Chibok is hosting the headquarters of the 28 Task Force Brigade, which controls a large security area that extends to Northern Adamawa along the Cameroonian border. The condition of the road worsens as travellers move closer to the town. During a visit by our reporter, the first check point had been taken over by flood. Near the checkout, a truck conveying water to soldiers got stuck in the mud and a military truck was dispatched to evacuate the content.
“Chibok is the centre of erosion due to neglect,” a resident of the town who identified himself as Sam, said. “We don’t have roads here despite the fame we enjoy,” he added. In March 2015, almost one year after the infamous abduction which was trailed by counter accusations over the authenticity of the incident, then Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala laid the foundation for new classrooms at GSS Chibok on behalf of then President Goodluck Jonathan, in an effort to rebuild the school destroyed in the course of the kidnapping. Soon after, controversy trailed the N500 million raised by the Jonathan government under the Safe School Initiative (SSI) for rebuilding the school.
This was followed by a petition to the EFCC by a non-governmental organisation which alleged that the money had been diverted. When our reporter visited Chibok recently and attempted to gain access to the heavily guarded school, he was advised to obtain written permission from the military high command. And when he approached the 28 Task Force Brigade in the town to see the commander, a soldier made series of phone calls to his superiors and then said there was nothing they could do because the school was under the custody of a different commander.
However, findings reveal that as at April 2016 which marked the second anniversary of the abduction of the girls, construction had not started on the site even though hundreds of blocks were piled in preparation for the project. But, by the end of 2017, the new structures built by army engineers at the site had reached roof level, giving hope to the community that lessons would resume any moment. In the interim, the Borno State Government had approved that lessons should resume at the Central Primary School, Chibok, where the secondary students share space with primary school pupils and students of Junior Secondary School, Chibok.
This was when it was evident that the project was far from completion. Under the arrangement which still persists, students of GSS Chibok and those in primary school take lessons in the morning while classes for JSS Chibok hold in the afternoon. In an interview, Bulama Madu who was the vice principal of the girls’ school when the attack took place until his retirement in 2016, called on the federal government to fast-track the project to enable the students return to the permanent site.
A parent, Lawal Zanna, who is the secretary of Chibok Girls’ Parents’ Association, said they are still in grief as 112 girls remained in captivity. “We have lost communication with the government. Nobody talks to the parents any more. After freeing 107 girls, government promised to secure the release of the remaining ones but nothing happened yet. “We have been waiting for years, some of the parents have died while waiting while many others are now ill,” he said.
About the rescued girls Daily Trust reports that many of the Chibok girls freed from Boko Haram were enrolled for a foundation programme at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, under a federal government sponsorship. Some of them were also reportedly ‘adopted’ by some people and taken abroad even though very little has been heard of them of recent. When contacted, AUN’s Communications Director, Daniel Okereke, said he did not have details on the status of the girls, adding that the officer in charge of the programme had travelled out of the country.
He promised to get back to our reporter but did not. However, an insider told Daily Trust that the girls were placed on a beginner course, saying some of them have been upgraded to intermediate and advanced classes depending on performance. It was however gathered that 13 of the girls have voluntarily withdrawn from the programme and went back home, a development which was confirmed by secretary of the parents association, Lawal Zanna, who said no reason was given for the withdrawal and that attempt to convince the girls’ parents to take them back was not successful.
Speaking on the Chibok girls’ issue, one of the
leaders of the #BringBackOurGirls (#BBOG) movement, Florence Ozor, said
the group’s commitment in respect of the girls has not changed. “It gets
more depressing as the days go by without any word from the government
about the abducted, including Leah Sharibu (who was taken away from a
school in Dapchi, Yobe State) and others,” she said. “We still have our
daily sit-outs at the Unity Fountain, and we still do our countdowns.
BBOG has not in any way abated in its quests and will not stop until the
girls are back,” she added.