•Nigerians call for more pressure on federal government to free abductees
By Cosmas Omegoh
There is probably no one who will not spare a thought for the remnants of the Chibok girls still in captivity. Yesterday April 14, 2017, marked the third anniversary of their abduction.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the classical Spanish writer, adjudged to be “perhaps the greatest writer in the Spanish language and one of the world’s pre-eminent novelists,” succinctly captured the pains of the ill-fated girls in one of his epic writings. He told humanity that, “Captivity is the greatest of all evils that can befall one.”
Even though Saavedra lived, from September 29, 1547, to April 23, 1616, his undying words bring to the fore the agony of the young women who have been plunged into grief for no fault of theirs.
In the early hours of April 14, 2014, over 200 female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were hauled into a truck and taken away by gunmen who turned out to be members of the Boko Haram terror group.
It was learnt that from the time they were taken and a few months after, 57 of them managed to escape to safety, leaving the fate of the remaining the 219 girls hanging in the balance.
The Boko Haram terrorists had fuelled the anxiety of every stakeholder when they issued an announcement telling the world that they had married the girls off. Some parents of the schoolgirls reportedly succumbed to death one after the other under the weight of trauma and fears that they might never see their children again.
The abduction sparked outrage in Nigeria and the international community. Civil society groups around the country coalesced to mount the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, with former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesisli, on the frontlines.
The efforts of the group had heaped enormous pressure on the then government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Many believed that his failure to rescue the girls contributed of the fall of his government at the polls in 2015.
The present government of President Muhammadu Buhari had latched onto the unfolding drama, using the release of the girls as one of its key selling points in the run-up to the presidential election. It insisted that once it came to power it would ensure that the girls were all freed.
But nearly two years down the road, very little seems to have been done to have the girls breathe the air of freedom again.
In mid-2016, one of the missing girls, identified as Amina Ali, was found roaming the dreaded Sambisa Forest, where the girls were believed to be held by their Boko Haram abductors. The girl reportedly claimed that the other Chibok girls were still in captivity, and that six out of the number had died. Months after, in October, another set of 21 girls walked to freedom. One of the kidnapped girls, identified as Rakiya Abubakar, who was found by the Nigerian Army carrying a six-month-old baby.
The Federal Government brought the girls to the seat of power in Abuja, where they were hosted by President Buhari. It was a day of emotions as some of the parents whose daughters were released could not hold back their joy and happiness. Their celebrations were in sharp contrast with other parents whose daughters’ fate remained unknown.
Between then and now, the miracle of the few who walked to freedom had come in trickles, with the BBOG maintaining that a total of 195 Chibok girls remained in captivity.
So far, there has been a running battle between the BBOG promoters and the Federal Government, with the authorities believing that the activists were acting as a pressure group. A couple of times, security agencies had clashed with the BBOG group, forcing them to either retreat of disperse and abandon their bid to march on Aso Villa, the seat of government, to register its displeasure over government’s seemingly conspiratory silence.
Over the past months, the Nigerian Army had been claiming a string of victories, insisting also that it had cleared Sambisa Forest of the Boko Haram insurgents. It said it would use the erstwhile enclave of the insurgents as its training facility. But the poser many have sustained for far is, “Where are the remaining Chibok girls, especially after the forest had been demystified?”
Yesterday, as always, the BBOG campaigners rolled onto the streets of Lagos and Abuja to sustain global attention on the plight of the remaining schoolgirls. In Lagos, they were received by the state government, which promised that it would communicate their demands to the Federal Government. In Abuja, the group equally sought to make impact.
Amid the suspicion that efforts of government towards the release of the girls was waxing cold, many Nigerians have been calling for more pressure on the Buhari administration to do the needful. In this regard, Prof. Ishaq Akintola of the Muslim Rights Concern, human rights activists Inibehe Effiong and Mr. Pat Anyadubalu, legal practioners, have been speaking out on the matter.
Akintola said: “I join fellow Nigerians in marking the third anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls. We felicitate with those who are free and we sympathise with those still in captivity. We will continue to pray for their freedom because God answers prayers. We pray for their parents. Every parent knows what they are going through.
“Let them have faith in God. Let Nigerians and all men of goodwill continue to put pressure on government to keep up efforts at ensuring the release of the remaining girls.”
On his part, Effiong, who commended the Federal Government for it efforts at releasing those now free, called for more attempts at freeing the remaining captives: “Government needs to show that there is an ongoing effort at ensuring that the rest of the girls are released.
“In the meantime, what we are seeing is that there is a communication gap between the Chibok community, the BBOG and the government. This is improper. This is not good.
“Let government initiate a dialogue that would ensure the return of the girls. If they are alive, Nigerians need to know; if they are dead or married off as the Boko Haram claimed, Nigerians equally need to know.
“Let me urge Nigerians to remain calm and maintain a positive outlook and see what comes out of it.”
Also in his remarks, Anyadubalu noted that the case of the Chibok girls had remained embarrassing, especially in the light of the fact that the government of the day harped on it during the election campaign.
“It is embarrassing that we have not been able to solve this problem three years down the road. It is more embarrassing against the background that the Jonathan government failed to rescue the girls and now the present administration has not been able to resolve the matter.
“On account of this, let government find a final solution to the problem. If the remaining girls are alive or dead we need to know. We need to put this behind us,” he said.