Nigeria marked the 5th anniversary of the Chibok kidnapping this month with stinging attacks on the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for not doing enough to find and free the remaining 112 girls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014.
It was a tragedy that caught the Jonathan administration unawares, threw it into confusion and ultimately provided its opponents the bullets to kick it out of office recalls Leadership
In a damning article published by Premium Times, Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign says that half a decade after their abduction from the Borno State School, the children still remain in the firm grip of the Islamist insurgents.
Emblem of Boko Haram violence
According to Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode who is also the CEO of the Murtala Mohammed Foundation, the girls have become a symbol of all thousands of Nigerian women kidnapped and enslaved during the last ten years of the Boko Haram insurgency. This, in addition to an estimated 50,000 people killed since they launched their brutal crusade in 2011.
The stinging report titled “Chibok Girls: An Emblem of Boko Haram’s Violence against Women, also highlights chilling allegations in a 2018 Amnesty International report that thousands of women who survived the terror have faced an organised system of rape and sexual exploitation at the hands of state officials.
Scars that won't heal
The co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls movement the short-sighted policies which have failed to shed any light on the children’s whereabouts. She warns that the horrendous experiences suffered by women in north-eastern Nigeria will not be healed unless there is some form of community-based truth-telling, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation mechanism.
In its coverage of the anniversary Premium Times publishes the names of the 112 girls in bold characters in a grim reminder of the sleepless nights their families and their well-wishers spend, waiting for their return.
As many as 23 of my cousins and nieces were among the children abducted, recalls veterinary doctor Allen Manasseh who serves as spokesman for the Chibok Development association and the local branch of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
“Three of my cousins managed to escape within the first few days of their abduction, and the rest remained with the group in the hands of their captives for over two years until the Nigerian government negotiated their release”, said Manasseh.
Pain of silence
The Chibok elite who spoke to RFI from the Borno State capital Maiduguri also raised the traumatizing experience the children’s parents have been going through as they wait for news about the 112 children still missing.
“So far we’ve lost 21 parents to various kinds of illnesses, organ failure, heart attacks, hypertension, all, indications of the pain they have gone through”. Allen Manasseh regrets.
According to the Chibok councilor, “some don’t talk about it and are just quiet and nursing their pain”, due to the government’s alleged failure to keep them abreast with what they are doing to rescue the girls.
“This has been part of what is adding to their trauma, because talking to them constantly may have stimulated hope at some point”, argues Dr. Manasseh.
With regard to the group of 107 who have been freed, he says they are in preparatory school at the American University of Nigeria in Yola, Adamawa State where they were taken after their rehabilitation to pursue their education.
No Kobo for Chibok campaign
Despite the importance of financial resources to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, Allen Manasseh swears that the movement has not received a dime from either the government or any NGO, meaning that they have to continue self-sustaining.
“Our budget is very mean and I can say categorically that#BringBackOurGirls has never raised 1 Kobo from anybody”, said the Chibok council official.