Today is the fifth anniversary of one of the darkest incidents in Nigeria’s recent past, the mass abduction of about 276 female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency. On that night of April 14, 2014, Boko Haram terrorists struck in Chibok and took away teenage girls within the 16-18 age bracket who were in the dormitory preparing to write their final examinations. It was a dastardly act that put Nigeria in the world map for the wrong reason, for never had it been reported that such mass kidnapping occurred in one fell swoop. It was an event that caught the then Jonathan administration unawares, threw it into confusion and ultimately provided its opponents the bullets to kick it out of office.
The initial lethargic government response to the incident left much to be desired. It first doubted that it happened, then it considered it a gang-up against the then administration, and by the time it woke to the reality and enormity of what had taken place, the insurgents had taken their captives far into the Sambisa Forest, its operational headquarters. That initial dilly dallying was a mortal mistake on the part of the government of the day from which it never recovered. Of course, the kidnapping threw up a lot of conspiracy theories and finger pointing.
How was it that in a military area of operation, a state practically crawling with soldiers, that some trucks would carry that number of girls and run for several hours without being intercepted by troops? Or without the military scrambling up a team to pursue the insurgents both from the air and ground? What of the reports that troops were withdrawn from the town few days to that attack when everyone knew that Boko Haram terrorists, whose creed abhors western education, had been known to attack schools, having slaughtered 59 schoolboys a few months earlier in Buni Yadi town, Yobe State. And what of the Amnesty International report that the Nigerian Army at the time had four-hour advance intelligence about the impending attack but failed to act?
As a newspaper, we had called for a thorough enquiry into the incident and for anyone whose actions and inactions contributed to the incident to be punished and for the report to be published. Though a panel of enquiry was set up, its report never saw the light of day. The failure to identify and punish culprits in the Chibok saga may have encouraged what happened in Dapchi four years later when terrorists of the Boko Haram sect affiliated to ISIS carried out a similar mass abduction of over a 110 schoolgirls from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, 2018, with the familiar tale of advance warning of the military authorities in the area.
Soon, the girls’ fate took a life of its own, with world figures across the five continents joining in the call for the girls to be released. And every day for the duration of the life of that administration, the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group, prominently led by former minister of education and of solid minerals and mines development, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, gathered every day in Abuja to pressure the government into expediting action towards freeing the girls from captivity.
And even though one of the campaign promises of the present administration was to free the girls, effort in this direction has yet to yield full dividends, despite all the assurances and reassurances made to the victims’ families and to Nigerians.
Of the total number of schoolgirls stolen from Chibok in that attack, 57 of the girls managed to escape their captors, four were found under different circumstances, 103 were freed through the efforts of the Buhari administration, while 112 are still missing, a few of them presumably dead, according to the report of one of the freed girls.
It has been five long years that the families of these unfortunate girls have been going through the trauma of just imagining what could be happening to their children in the midst of bloodthirsty terrorists, and as we approach the fifth anniversary of this defining moment in the Boko Haram insurgency, we urge the federal government to rededicate itself to the effort to find and free the remaining 112 Chibok girls and finally bring to a closure this sad incident.
It is also necessary for this administration to critically examine this whole Boko Haram insurgency and seek ways of ending it once and for all, for it appears that some undesirable elements have turned it into a franchise and are profiting from the shedding of the blood of innocent Nigerians.
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