• Monday, May 20, 2024
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Chibok Girls: Nigeria’s govt still paying lip service to insecurity fight 10 years on


…About 100 still unaccounted for

…Search may have ended after seven years

…Fifty-seven lucky ‘escapees’ matriculated in 2021 at AUN

Today, 10 years ago, about 276 Nigerian girls were abducted from their school in a sleepy village of Chibok in Borno State.

It was the first-of-its-kind in the history of Nigeria. An Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram, accepted responsibility for the attack.

While some of the young women were later released or escaped, about 100 of them are still uncounted for.

Read also: 10 years after Chibok, mass kidnappings still torment Nigeria education

Although several local and international rights groups mounted pressure on government to do everything within its powers to bring back home the young women, many of the girls remain either dead or alive in the kidnappers’ den.

There have been many other abductions in some states of the North West and North East.

The insurgent Boko Haram, which became known in Nigeria in 2010 with sporadic attacks in many locations, including religious centres with heavy casualties, is a group that is opposed to formal education, and tries to intimidate both the government and the citizens into accepting their philosophy.

They have carried out other abductions, including that of 110 girls from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, a town in Yobe State, on February 19, 2018.

Between December 2020 and February 2021, there were series of mass abduction of school children, including the abduction of over 600 schoolchildren across Zamfara, Katsina, and Niger states.

For instance, in December 2020, kidnappers abducted 344 school boys in Katsina State.

Read also: Scorecard: The Chibok girls under President Buhari’s administration

In February 2021, about 279 female students aged between 10 and 17 were abducted at the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara. In March of the same year, all the hostages were released.

The Jangebe incident took place nine days after that of Kagara, where about 42 hostages were taken from a school in Niger State.

Ten years after the incident that shook the world, the Nigerian government has continued to pay lip service to the fight against insecurity.

Within this period, several other schools have been attacked and many pupils carried away. Despite repeated threats and endless meetings by the highest functionaries of government, insecurity has remained the order of the day, not just around schools in the country, but also in every nook and cranny in Nigeria.

Reactions of government to such incidents have remained perfunctory and ad-hoc.

The authorities have been accused of failure to put in place important and workable measures to provide a secure learning environment for every child.

Save the Children Nigeria, a non-for-profit humanitarian group, said that since 2014, more than 1,600 children have been abducted or kidnapped across northern Nigeria.

On March 7,2024, about 287 school children were reportedly abducted from LEA Primary and Government Secondary School, Kuriga by some bandits.

The local risk analyst, SBM Intelligence report said that between July 2022 and July 2023, 3,620 people were abducted in 582 kidnapping incidents across Nigeria.

As at March 8, 2024, it recorded that 4,777 people have been abducted since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took office last year.

Government’s initial public reaction was that of threat, as President Tinubu said that there would no longer be ransom paid to rescue any kidnap victim. The government’s declaration was not well-received by many Nigerians who thought that was a little bit off the mark.

While Nigerians remember Leah Sharibu and others still held hostage by their abductors, there remains a host of unanswered questions as to what really transpired on the night the girls were taken into captivity?

“Was what transpired in Chibok that night a normal kidnap or a staged abduction, with a hint that some powerful interests behind the incident may be playing hide and seek with the Chibok girls to achieve political ends, not least of all the end of portraying President Goodluck Jonathan as incapable of providing security for our country and thereby undermine his electability should he decide to run in the 2015 elections,” an analyst had said.

An analyst, who spoke with BusinessDay Sunday on condition of anonymity, said that there was nothing showing that the government of Nigeria had all it takes to fight insecurity, and that if the government was determined to end the scourge, it could have long been done.

“There is nothing showing me that the government is well-prepared to prevent the abduction from happening again. I can’t see anything that points to that readiness. So, we are just abandoned to fate. Something tells me that those in government know what is really the matter, and we may not have seen an end to kidnapping,” he said.

‘Fifty-seven Chibok schoolgirls matriculated in 2021 at AUN’

In October 2021, 57 Chibok schoolgirls took part in the year’s annual Convocation and Pledge Ceremony at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, Adamawa State.

They had registered as first-year university students. They hoped to help build a better and more peaceful Nigeria at the Development University.

These 57 Chibok students had been enrolled in the AUN New Foundation School (NFS) programme as they prepared for university work, and for life. They have been on the scholarship of the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, and were sent to AUN, which has the facilities and resources to mentor them through their personal healing, educational development, and gradual community reintegration.

Many of them have indicated an interest in studying Law, Natural and Environmental Sciences, Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Business Administration, Communication, Multimedia Design, and Economics.

Some of them who spoke with BusinessDay at that event had expressed the optimism that they had a date with destiny and looked forward to doing great things in life.

Today, many of them have graduated and are all over the globe doing great things.

Recall that AUN was helpful in providing a shoulder for the returnee abducted young women to pick the pieces of their lives.

The former President of the AUN, Margee Ensign was passionate about the girls, and the university provided all the needed assistance to enable them forge ahead with life.

While a good number of the abducted girls are either dead or still being held hostage, a good number of them are in different parts of the world living their dreams.

Has the search for the missing girls ended?

The search for the abducted girls may have ended if a disclosure by a security agent is anything to go by.

He disclosed that search for a missing person remains open for up to seven years, and thereafter, the file will be closed.

Citizens worry over govt’s lack of political will

Some private sector operators who spoke with BusinessDaySunday said that kidnapping had become the new business in town that pays hugely, and that unfortunately, those behind the crime are influential and powerful that government seems incapable of punishing.

“The business model is now obvious. It is a franchise business, getting people involved because there is much money to make. We have been on this theory of ‘No ransom.’ It is very easy for government to just come up and say no more ransom payment, but the question is how practicable is it? The practical aspect is missing. What must government do to ensure ransom is not paid? Is removing the financial incentive the only way to disincentivize the kidnappers? Is there nothing government can do to end the menace? What is the new thinking? For 10 years we have heard, don’t pay ransom. It has not worked, what is the new thinking? The financial system is complicit. I don’t think that Super Tucano can catch kidnappers,” an education consultant said, craving anonymity.

Another expert in the power sector accused the government of lacking the political will to fight the monster.

“When we say political will, that’s probably the way to address it. The founder of Boko Haram was used by politicians. The way the Niger Delta militancy started, a governor in one of the states wanted to win a re-election. He empowered the bad boys. After the election, they did not return the guns. They have killed as political thugs and no one arrested them, let alone prosecuting them. So, they found out that even murder does not make them to go to jail and that Nigeria is a place that pays. They also found out no one has been convicted, and killed for kidnapping and murder.

“Let’s look at it from another angle, today, more money is being given to governors which they loot, and launch billions of naira to renovate buildings. With the big money they get now, they still borrow heavily. All these encourage others to find other ways to maintain their selfish lifestyles they have been introduced to by the same politicians. This is why the politicians have no political will, no moral high ground to go after the bandits they created,” he said.

According to him, “In a country where criminals run amok, and nobody punishes them; the law does not punish them, and bad things continue to happen, things cannot work well. The late General Sani Abacha said if insurgency lasts more than 7 days, government must have a hand in it. The President met with bankers and told them that some of them are keeping money for kidnappers, yet heads are not rolling; everywhere is silent. That is not how to get it right,” he said.