• Tuesday, October 03, 2023
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Scorecard: The Chibok girls under President Buhari’s administration

Scorecard: The Chibok girls under President Buhari’s administration

This is a scorecard on President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on its handling of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls. This scorecard is based on six key indicators drawn from campaign promises, commitments, and the duty of the government based on Section 14(2)(b) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.

Indicator 1: Return of the Chibok Girls

Two hundred and nineteen #ChibokGirls had been abducted for 410 days before President Buhari was sworn in on May 29, 2015. So far, 183 of the girls are back; 93 remain in captivity. To President Buhari’s credit, 126 Chibok girls were returned under his leadership either through negotiations or their escape which the Military ascribes to the result of onslaughts against the insurgents.

Undeniably, President Buhari leveraged the failure of the Goodluck Jonathan administration during his campaign. By the end of Buhari’s administration on May 29, 2023, the remaining 93 Chibok girls would have been in abduction for a total of 3,332 days – that is, 2,922 days under the Buhari administration.

Indicator 2: Effectiveness of care and support

One of the tools we (the #BringBackOurGirls movement) developed and presented to President Buhari a few weeks after taking office is the “3-R System” – a framework that detailed the expected scope of Rehabilitation, Reintegration, and Resocialization of the rescued girls and other returnees.

Based on reports from the relatives of the girls who have returned, the Buhari government has not fared well in the care of the Chibok girls. For some who managed to return to school, there have been reports of stigmatization, and, in some cases, their children are rejected for carrying the “bad blood” of their Boko Haram fathers. This has caused some to withdraw from school. Some relocated to another state.

During the ninth-year commemoration of the Chibok girls’ abduction, the Chibok community in Abuja lamented that 14 of the rescued girls are still in the custody of the Borno State government idling away with no information on the plans for them.

Indicator 3: Communication

Parents and relatives of the Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu have complained of a lack of communication from the government, despite the now nonfunctional designated Chibok Girls Desk. One wonders about the emotional and psychological state of the 37 parents of the Chibok girls who have died not knowing the fate of their girls.

The Buhari government claimed actions are being taken to secure the girls’ release, but it is evident that the only time we read anything about the Chibok girls is when one (or more) manages to escape. Evidently, the Buhari government has not handled the needed continuous communication properly, not only to the parents and relatives of the girls, but also to all Nigerians and, in fact, the world at large.

Indicator 4: Guarantee of Non-Repetition

The unprecedented nature of the Chibok girls’ abduction not only exposed Nigerians and the world to the scale of the Boko Haram insurgency but also the havoc the terrorist group had the capacity to wreak. It became important to evaluate the safety and security of all schools in the affected states to ensure mechanisms are in place to prevent a reoccurrence. The Buhari government failed in this regard. Large-scale abductions of schoolchildren and teachers became worrisomely high under his administration.

The need to guarantee non-repetition is one of the four pillars of Transitional Justice, with others as truth-seeking, justice, and reparations for victims. Transitional Justice is to the effect that when a country is transitioning from, say, an armed conflict, it is imperative to use a range of judicial and non-judicial mechanisms to confront, understand, and provide reparation for the human rights violations that occurred during the period.

One of such mechanisms is to ensure the violations do not happen again. Since the Chibok abduction, more than 1,500 schoolchildren (mostly girls) have been abducted by armed groups; and, as of October 2021, 1,436 schoolchildren and 17 teachers were abducted. In February 2018, 110 schoolgirls were abducted from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.

One (Leah Sharibu) remains in captivity. In June 2021, 102 schoolgirls were abducted from Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State. Most of them who have returned had ransom paid by their parents/relatives. In July 2021, 121 schoolchildren were abducted from Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna State.

Indicator 5: Safety of schools, teachers, and schoolchildren

In International Humanitarian Law, civilian objects (such as schools) and civilian populations (such as schoolchildren) are not to be targeted. However, when a civilian object becomes occupied or used by either of the warring parties, it changes the nature of such objects and robs it of its protective cover. The insurgents occupied schools, thus making them targetable. This triggered prolonged school shutdowns, a decline in enrolment, child marriage, and an increase in pregnancies among school-age girls.

There were many killings of schoolchildren and the destruction of educational facilities.

Amnesty International, in 2022, reports that five of the 19 students abducted from Greenfield University, Kaduna State were murdered; one of the 333 students kidnapped in Kankara, Katsina State was killed; five of the 110 girls kidnapped in Dapchi were killed; and five of the 136 schoolchildren kidnapped from Salihu Tanko Islamiya School, Tegina, Niger State were killed. According to UNICEF, over 2,295 teachers have been killed and over 1,400 schools destroyed across Nigeria’s northeast in the protracted conflict.

One would expect the Buhari administration to take advantage of being a party to the Safe School Declaration in implementing actions and emplacing systems needed to ensure a minimum standard of security and safety of all schools in conflict and crisis-prone areas.

Many schools remain unwalled, while most lack the necessary amenities to shield the children and school staff from abductions and attacks.

It is commendable, however, that the Buhari government established the Office for Strategic Preparedness and Resilience (OSPRE). With effective operations and adequate resourcing, it is hoped that this “National Early Warning Centre” will live up to its name.

Indicator 6: Accountability

Accountability is a critical tenet of the social contract theory – the hypothetical agreement between the supply side (the government) and the demand side (the people) that defines the rights and duties of each side. In relation to accountability for the Chibok girls, the Buhari administration has not performed up to expectations.

It was to forestall a lapse in accountability that the #BringBackOurGirls movement proposed to the appropriate authority the need for an Accountability Matrix that details the internal and external responsibilities of relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. Although the Matrix was not developed, there was some semblance of action by some MDAs. While the Ministry of Women Affairs bore the responsibility for the welfare of the returned girls, the scope of care vis-à-vis the anticipated outcomes was not clearly defined.

The Ministry claims they were only to care for 108 of the returned girls, thus begging some questions: who takes care of the remaining? What range of care are they receiving? Which MDA is accountable for other needs?

Another area of accountability relates to the budget for the care of the girls and their relatives. The Victim Support Fund was created to mobilize sustainable funding and build partnerships for the support and transformation of victims of terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria. Yet, the parents complain of not receiving sufficient care from the government. One relative opines that if the care had been reaching them, many of the parents may not have died untimely and some would not be nursing peculiar health problems.

Read also: 9 years after abduction, army rescues two more Chibok girls in Borno

Another area of accountability is that of missing persons. The #BringBackOurGirls movement advocated for the creation of a Missing Persons Register. Despite meetings with the National Human Rights Commission and some actions taken, it was unsuccessful.

In January 2023, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs confirmed Nigeria has no reliable national data on missing persons because there’s no official register. Yet, the Red Cross revealed over 13,000 families in Nigeria are searching for their missing loved ones. The prosecution of the perpetrators of the abduction is another area of accountability. There were reports that the Nigerian Police arrested some abductors, including those who confessed, but, to date, there is no report of the investigation or conclusive prosecution.


To the extent that 126 Chibok girls were brought back under President Buhari earned his government a good score. However, with the remaining girls still in the abduction and the failings identified herein, there is a need for the new government to ensure adequate protection of schools, effective early warning and rapid response systems, accountability, continuous communication, and, most importantly, #BringBackOurGirls!

Shonibare is a founding strategic team member of the #BringBackOurGirls movement. She is the executive director of Invictus Africa.