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Chibok Girls : still dramatic narratives two years after


Only fifteen out of the 219 girls still in captivity were shown in the video. PHOTO: CNN

Only fifteen out of the 219 girls still in captivity were shown in the video. PHOTO: CNN

In the thinking of many Nigerians that voted for the President Buhari-led government, the second anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls would be celebrated in fanfare, as a result of the eventual release of the schoolgirls, especially as the immediate past administration was accused of inept handling of the matter. The then presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), had not minced words, while assuring the electorate that his administration would leave no stone unturned in its effort at securing the girls’ freedom, if voted into power. Indeed, he had promised that the girls would be released by their captors within 100 days of his administration.

But the president did not stop at that. In his inaugural statement after winning the election, he reassured not only the parents of the girls but also the nation, when he categorically stated: “We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage . . . This government will do all it can to rescue them alive.” And though the girls are yet to be released, the APC and Buhari’s administration has continued to celebrate his conquering of Boko Haram, using different words to describe its achievement in this regard. The BringBackOurGirls Group recently said it is hinging its optimism that the girls would be eventually released on the President’s reassuring statements.

“It is one key reason why we have not given up on our demand for their rescue, as we are convinced that a sustained and results-based operation can quickly yield the long expected result,” the group said.

However, hundred days have passed and the girls are nowhere to be found, let alone be reunited with their families. Nigerians and the girls’ parents are daily hoping that even if the present administration is not able to meet its promised deadline, it should at least help bring back the girls in the near future. But the drama that has dogged the abduction of the girls from day one has not ceased, even as the abduction clocks two years.

This can be said to be an anti-climax, as many observers even globally, had thought that the narrative around the abduction of the Chibok girls would change with the emergency of Buhari. But this has not been the case.

When President Buhari met recently with the girls’ families, his aides had ordered journalists out of the venue. Thus, the many conflicting and negative reports that emerged as what transpired at the meeting were narratives that could be compared with the obfuscation that surrounded the rescue of the Chibok girls during the past administration.

In the past few days, there have been reports alleging that three of the girls called their parents and that some of the parents identified their daughters in a video played by Cable News Network (CNN). But some persons, who had watched the video, doubted its credibility, especially when considered from a psychological perspective. Their view is premised on that fact that the girls in the video did not appear as people that have been in captivity for a while and had been traumatised from their abduction, which should ordinarily have been the natural thing.

When the abduction first occurred two years ago, many Nigerians had condemned the low-level intelligence gathering on the part of government both local, state and federal, as members of the sect had warned of the imminent attack. It was even said that government had access to information through the community people that such was going to happen. And now there are new dramatic turns with the present administration, as the narratives around the Chibok girls unfold daily.

At his maiden and only media chat till date, President Buhari conferred there had been no intelligence-based information on the girls’ whereabouts. The new video that is trending was said to have been shot on December 25, 2015. Yet, no intelligence agency of government had any inkling of its presence. Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed on CNN last week tried to sound as if government was aware of the existence of the video. But he did not sound credible.

At a press conference held to mark the two years abduction of the girls, the BBOG Group advocated urgent actions by Nigerian government and its local and international partners to address the monumental humanitarian crises in the North East region of Nigeria, as well as commence restoration of peace and order in destroyed communities. The organisation also stated that in the nearly two years of its advocacy, “it has averred that failure of governance has created the conditions for the abduction of our Chibok girls and all other similarly affected citizens in the first place.

“It is the same failure of governance that has impeded the search and rescue, which resulted in the failure to rescue even one out of the 219 girls after 24 months of their abduction. We, like most Nigerians, are however extremely worried about the brittle military-civilian relationship manifested in recent developments in such places as Zaria, Aba and Onitsha, where mass killings have been reported against our military. We want to see the Federal government unveil every opaque investigation on these happenings and commence full disclosure with adequate remediation in all such cases.”

Referring again to the different promises of President Buhari during the election and after, the group said: “The problem, however, is that hitherto, our Federal Government, the military and the broader security team are less than persuasive on the matter of the rescue of our 219 Chibok girls. With the strong promises made by Mr. President to rescue them as a matter of priority, we had hoped there would by now be a positive outcome on the search and rescue operation mounted for them. It is for this reason that parents of Chibok girls, their community and our movement were devastated by the feedback received from our President, seven months into this administration. We are still puzzled at the fact that the President at a meeting on January 14 2016, inferred that our Chibok girls were not yet rescued because the government ‘lacked credible intelligence on the whereabouts of the girls’.

“To us, the implication of this statement is that with government lacking such critical information on the possible location of all or some of the girls, nearly two years after their abduction, we are left with an open-ended prospect for their rescue. The truth must be told: Nigeria has disappointingly failed these 219 schoolgirls for far too long. Two years is unacceptably a long time for young women to be left as captive of terrorists. Not only Nigeria, but also the world has failed our girls. We all, as humanity, have failed our girls in not doing all we can to ensure their rescue these past 731 days.”

The body, however, urged the Federal and Borno State governments to take immediate steps to rehabilitate the Government Secondary School, Chibok from where the girls were abducted. “That it continues to lie in ruins of the tragedy and destruction the terrorists visited on it two years ago is a bad symbolic reminder,” it said.

President, Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, is, however, of the opinion that it shouldn’t be condemnation all around, as he observed that during the several offensives by the military during Jonathan administration and under Buhari, thousands of women, girls and children had been freed from Boko Haram enclave. “Even this past week, they freed about 200 persons,” he said

Speaking specifically about the Chibok abduction, Ekhomu said there is too much politics woven around the matter. He said to start with, it was unbelievable that though there was information that Boko Haram members were coming to abduct the girls, the military explained that because of the Chibok terrain, it took them five hours to respond, when they got the information.

“Even more shocking was that government officials did not believe that those girls were abducted. If you remember, the same day those girls were captured on April 14, there was a bomb blast in Nyanya area of Abuja.

“There was a lot of communication gap at that time, because nobody was sure of what was happening. I had said then that the capturing of those girls was an opportunity for government to go in hot pursuit and rescue them. I could see the window closing.”

Two parents identified their daughters in the video. PHOTO: CNN

Two parents identified their daughters in the video. PHOTO: CNN

In his view, the whole process is a failure of country’s security unit, because security officials are not government officials, as they are meant to uphold the laws of the land, including the protection of the citizens. Said he: “They are not politicians, whose job is to lie and win office. But they work with facts and concrete evidence. So, they need to do their job and not look at the body language of politicians and political leaders, who were making all sorts of statements, when that incident happened.

“This week, I got a mail from people, senior military officers questioning whether there was any incidents around the Chibok girls’ abduction. This means they do not have a clear understanding of what was going on. Personally, I cannot even call Jonathan and Buhari to question on this, because this is a failure of security and intelligence, principally the security arms.”

Ekhomu said Borno State government is a critical accomplice in the whole process. “This is where Nigeria becomes very complicated sometimes. Here, we are not able to draw the line between politics and governance. Governance is about delivering service to the people. Nobody cares which party you are from, but about delivering services. In this case, some citizens’ rights had been violated and governance demands that all security efforts should have been put in place, be it at local, state or federal government. After all, there was a local government in Chibok and there was the Borno State Government and the Federal Government. But there was no tangible action from any of them. So, the Borno Government should not feel it is blameless in this matter because it has a very important role in all of these.

“And till today, there are still a lot of opportunities to find those girls. There are a lot of things to be done, which are not being done. There is even no Task Force purposely for the recovery of those girls. Rather, there have only been hand twisting and empty political promises and comments, which are not producing any result. Though the BBOG group is drumming up support and making a lot of noise, which is good, as they are bringing attention to it, but that is not investigation and it is not going to bring the girls back.”

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