By Chukwudi Nweje – Acting Features Editor
Today, April 14 makes it 365 days, exactly one year the Chibok community of Borno State, North East Nigeria was thrown into confusion. More than 200 secondary school girls had gone to the Government Secondary School in the town to write their final examination high with hope that they are preparing themselves for the future, a future in which they will be useful members of the society. But rather than write the examination which would have catapulted them to greater heights, they were abducted by the Boko Horam militants. 365 days after mum remains the word on the fate of the girls.
To make matters worse, the news of their abduction became an issue. Some people believed it while other doubted. Believers demanded their return, while those in doubt demanded proof of their abduction. It was not until Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister of Education launched the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners that mobilised Nigerians and drew international attention, support and commitment towards finding the girls that the Federal Government sprung into action. But even then some in government circle still said it was a smear campaign against the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration.
Shortly after the abduction of the girls by the Boko Haram terrorist group on April 14, 2014 the army had reportedly announced early in May that about 107 of the kidnapped girls had been freed with “only eight still missing.” However, the following day the Borno State Government and principal of the school refuted the position of the military, describing the claim of the Defence Headquarters (DHQs) as false. The DHQ later retracted the controversial and false claim of the rescue. Later in May spokesman of the army, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade was quoted as having told an online news media, Premium Times that an undisclosed number of the girls had been released and driven to Maimalari Barracks, headquarters of the 7th division of the Nigerian Army in two Hiace buses. However, barely two hours after the bogus claim, the DHQ again denounced it.
Many questions had been asked; very few answers were received. All the news that filtered to the public was second-hand information from the press, many of who did not have on the ground assessment of the events of that fateful night and the trails it has left behind. Weather they are alive or dead no one can say, except perhaps their captors whose only comments on the girls have been threats to either kill or give them away in marriage to members of the sect.
But, 365 days after, the Chibok community appears more confused than they were on April 14 when their children were abducted. The Nigerian military have re-taken most of the towns occupied by the Boko Haram militants, but the girls have not been sighted. Some people believe the girls may have been killed by the fleeing militants, but there are no corpses to support the fear. Others are hopeful that the girls are alive but there is no clue to where they might be.
Stakeholders have tasked the Federal Government on the urgent need to rescue the girls. Louisa Ono-Eikhomun, Executive Director Echoes of Women in Africa Initiative (ECOWA) called on the government to rise to its responsibilities by showing more dedicated efforts at finding the missing school girls. She said the long period the school girls have been in captivity will have long term consequences for the girls and their parents. She therefore called on the government to “place greater value on the lives of women and girls in conflict and not fail these young Nigerian.”
Joe Oki-Odumakin, President Women Arise for Change Initiative believes the President Jonathan-led government has no clue regarding the whereabouts of the girls. She said: “all that has been heard from the outgoing administration of are the efforts being made to secure the return of the abducted girls even though there has been several gainsin the battle against insurgency in the North East region where the girls were abducted. It is my view that the government at present has no clue about the whereabouts of the girls. It is therefore imperative for the incoming administration to make the return of the Chibok girls the first line of action in its planned war against insurgency. They must engage both local and international intelligence community in detecting the whereabouts of the girls and do everything possible to ensure their safe return”
On his part, Debo Adeniran, Convener, Action Team Against Conscription and Kidnap (ATACK) lamented that “the present government has not done anything concrete enough to convince the populace that they know the actual location of the children. It is preposterous of President Goodluck Jonathan when he said that the only evidence that those children were alive is that the Boko Haram elements have not displayed their corpses,” he said.
Such statement does not speak well of a Commander-in-Chief whose forces claimed that they knew the location of the children. What prevented them from routine check.
SOURCE: Daily Independent.