Nine Years After: Hope dims for 96 Chibok girls

This day, April 14, makes it nine years since the abduction of school girls from Chibok, a hitherto unknown rural town in Borno State, but now a global name.

As the world marks the 9th year anniversary of the Chibok girls’ abduction, 96 of the 276 abducted girls remain unaccounted for.

The update is courtesy of #Bringbackourgirls, the global campaign that has done much to draw attention to that infamous act of the Boko Haram insurgents nine years ago.

DAILY POST reports that on April 14, 2014, the Boko Haram terrorists abducted 276 girls from the dormitory of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok.

They had rushed in on motorcycles and bicycles and began to open fire on residents of the village.

They created widespread panic, burnt down houses and destroyed other valuable assets, and then seizing the girls from the boarding school.

The armed marauders loaded the girls into trucks bound for their dens perceivably in the expansive Sambisa forest.

Fifty-seven girls managed to escape by jumping out of the moving trucks.

The rest were moved into the infamous dens of the notorious terrorists where they were forced into marriage.

The girls who were mostly Christians were forced into Islam.

The Chibok abduction, which till date remains Boko Haram’s most reported act, was what brought the terrorist group to global infamy.

Although they had been well known in Nigeria previously for their terrorist attacks, they attracted less global attention.

Boko Haram leader at the time, Abubakar Shekau, had admitted to the abduction of the girls, claiming that it was a reaction to the imprisonment of Boko Haram members by the Nigerian government.

The girls, who were mere teenagers, being mostly less than 18 years old, were promptly paired as wives to members of the Boko Haram sect, in the sect’s belief that no girl is too young for marriage.

Boko Haram had been in existence 12 years before the Chibok attack, after it was founded in 2002 by a Muslim scholar, Mohammed Yusuf.

Their first known act of violence was in 2003, when they attacked multiple police stations, killing police officers and stealing weapons.

In retrospect, it could be rightly said that the Chibok abductions furthered the sect’s core cause of discouraging western education, as it was bound to discourage many school-age children from the school environment.

The name Boko Haram, a mix of Arabic and Hausa languages, translates to ‘Western education is forbidden,’ and the sect was generally fighting to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state and stop anything, including education and the Christian religion, that they consider to have Western content or influence.

As Boko Haram gathered steam, in 2009, Mohammed Yusuf was captured and killed by the Nigerian military.

His death apparently created a catalyst that spurred the group into more violence, trying in many instances and succeeding in some of them at overthrowing certain levels of government.

At a time, especially between 2014 and 2015, the sect seized many local government areas around the principal states where it operated, namely Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

The abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls led to the coinage of the global rallying cry, ‘bring back our girls’, a quote taken from a speech that a former minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili made on TV.

It turned into a famous hashtag on social media, driving a movement for the return of the girls.

Global leaders supported the campaign, including former First Lady, Michelle Obama, who promised that the US government would help to find the missing girls.

In 2015, newly inaugurated President Muhammadu Buhari promised to rescue the hostages from Boko Haram but succeeded in the immediate time only in reclaiming territories that Boko Haram had captured in the previous years.

In 2016, one of the girls escaped and was found in the forest with her baby.

She said most of the other girls were still alive, the first indication since the abductions roughly two years earlier that the world could hope to have the girls back.

The Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, led negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, following which in October 2016, 21 of the Chibok girls were released and in May 2017, another set of 82 were released in exchange for five Boko Haram suspects.

Today, however, 96 of the girls remain missing.

Two of the girls found their way out of captivity between last September and now.

In September 2022, the Nigerian Army announced that 98 Chibok schoolgirls of the 276 abducted by Boko Haram were still in captivity

The head of the Intelligence Unit of the Joint Military Taskforce in the North East, Operation Hadinkai, Colonel Obinna Ezuikpe had told newsmen, “Out of the 276 abducted Chibok girls, 57 girls escaped in 2014, while 107 girls were released in 2018. Three girls were recovered in 2019, two in 2021 and nine were rescued in 2022, bringing the total to 178 girls out of captivity and 98 remaining in Boko Haram captivity.”

As the world witnesses the 9th anniversary of the abductions, however, there is little hope about the remaining girls returning.

An activist in the frontline of activities around the terrorists, Malam Hamza Suleiman, who spoke on phone to DAILY POST Thursday morning, gave a number of reasons for this.

He said most of the girls were believed to have been moved from Nigeria to places around Lake Chad, and so were away from where interventions that facilitated earlier release of other Chibok girls could be perfected.

He said also that most of the remaining girls have gone so deeply into their life with the terrorists, having upwards of three children, adding that they were unlikely to embrace ‘freedom’ if they were offered.

According to Hamza, observers now have the fear that some of the girls may even have died, especially in the exchanges of fire that have often taken place between factions of the terrorists and government security agents.

He expressed the regret that attention to the remaining Chibok girls had decreased over time, reducing the likelihood of any more of the girls being prompted to return.

“Unlike the earlier years following the abductions, attention has radically shifted from the girls, such that until you called to ask for an update, I didn’t even remember that it’s nine years today,” he told DAILY POST correspondent.

He added that, “attacks have continued since the Chibok girls’ time; even depressingly so.”

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