When the parents of the students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, sent their daughters back to school, they never knew that they were sending them back to people who had sworn to make their lives miserable, the members of the Boko Haram.
So, on the night of April 14, 2014, members of the Boko Haram sect attacked and abducted 276 female students of the school. 57 of the abducted girls managed to escape but 219 girls remained in the hands of their captors, even after two years of abduction.
After so many doubts and delay, the former president, Goodluck Jonathan set up a Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on the Chibok Schoolgirls’ Abduction on May 6, 2014 which, after investigation, had validated that school girls were indeed abducted by the Boko Haram sect from their dormitory. Promises made by the past administration to rescue the girls were never fulfilled. The whereabouts of the girls remained unknown as many wondered if they were still alive.
Speculations whether some or all the girls were still alive were erased following the video of 15 girls released by the Boko Haram sect. The video, which was said to have been recorded on December 25, 2015, showed the girls wearing black hijabs in an unspecified location, stating their names.
Esther Yakubu, whose daughter, Dorcas was among the abducted girls, after viewing the video stated that she recognised two of the girls, urging the government to do whatever it could to bring the girls back.
“We are in the same community. I know them all. They are friends to my daughters. They used to come to our house. All I know is that the government had stated that they will do anything to rescue our girls. The government has seen the video. They know now that truly, it is our Chibok girls. They should do anything in their power to rescue them. I recognise Hauwa Ishaya and Rukatu Ayuba in the video,” she stated with tears in her eyes.
Mrs Yakubu was even more broken when another video was released by the Boko Haram sect and this time, her daughter, Dorcas was made the spokesperson to speak on behalf of the other girls, pleading for them to be rescued.
The #BringBackOurGirls group, the group which had stood in advocacy for the rescue of the girls, reminding the Nigerian government and the world that the 219 girls were still in the hands of their captors, waiting patiently to be rescued, believes that the video was a good place to begin investigation again into the abduction and possible rescue of the girls.
“We believe that the “proof of life video” would be a good place to start in scrutinising every possible lead that has been provided for our government on the whereabouts of our citizens. The government should, as it escalates the rescue operation, use the government-civil society Round Table to constantly provide progress reports of the operation and other related activities,” the group stated during the commemoration of the two years abduction of the girls.
The story of the abducted girls cannot be written without the #BBOG group. The group started its advocacy on April 30, 2014 with their first street protest to the National Assembly, 15 days after the abduction. The group had, after the protest, resolved to meet daily at the Unity Fountain until the girls were rescued, little did they know that they would still be meeting, two years after the abduction.
The group had made several protests, and had attended meetings with the National Security Adviser and the then chief of defence staff, including the Borno State governor, pressing for successful search and rescue of the girls but sadly, it didn’t yield any positive result. They have also visited embassies, urging the world leaders to help in the rescue mission of the girls.
The group blamed the past administration, led by President Goodluck Jonathan for its slow response in the rescue of the girls. When the new administration, led by President Muhammadu Buhari came into power, it sought audience with him while presenting a document called the ABC of #BBOG Specific demand. The meeting, which was held, July 8, 2015, renewed the group’s hope that the government was ready and capable of rescuing the girls. But their hope came crashing down during their second visit to President Buhari on January 14, 2016, seven months after his inauguration where they were told by him that there was no credible intelligence on the abducted girls. That was what widened the crack in the relationship between the group and the government as the group’s leader, Dr Oby Ezekwesi, insisted on speaking with the president directly after a government team failed to convince the group to suspend its request of speaking directly.
Ezekwesili expressed sadness over the lack of credible intelligence and had consistently called on world leaders to help the nation with intelligence of finding the abducted girls.
“It is now two years since we saw our president, that was seven months after his inauguration, he stated that there was no credible intelligence. That for us was not okay. We couldn’t imagine how seven months after inauguration and 13 months after the girls were abducted at that time, we would be told that there was lack of credible intelligence. We believe that the UK and other countries have the capability to credible intelligence. If this government is committed to finding the girls and the problem is credible intelligence, we want to know what you are going to do with our government to ensure that there is credible intelligence. It will make a big difference for the parents of these girls, the community and our movement as well as the rest of the world if the UK and other countries could be a basis for identifying the exact location where the girls are because it will help persuade the parents that the world cares about the girls. We should not assume closure on the girls because of lack of intelligence. Today’s world of intrusive technology proves that if we put our hearts to it, we can locate something about the girls. We need to be able to find information to persuade the parents of the girls that the world has not abandoned their children. The world cannot afford to abandon the girls. Everything I know about the UK is that they encourage girls to go to school. How can they forget the abducted girls? They are global citizens and I believe that the world needs to make new commitment to our Chibok girls,” she said.
The group, during its press briefing to commemorate the two years of the abduction, called on the government and other countries with capable support for the rescue effort of the girls to act without delay with a well-coordinated, coherent, sustained and result-focused SWAT search and rescued team that mobilises every possible intelligence assets available for the rescue of the girls.
“It is for these reasons that our movement will not stop reminding our president and the federal government of their constitution mandate and his personal pledge to rescue our Chibok girls. For 717 days, we have advocated relentlessly and shall continue until our girls are rescued,” the group said.
The group continued on its advocacy and finally around May this year, there was a ray of hope as one of the Chibok girls, Amina Ali Nkeki was found carrying a baby by an army-backed vigilante group on Tuesday in the huge Sambisa Forest, close to the border with Cameroon.
Ezekwesili, in her various interviews continued to express sadness over the inability of government to rescue the girls after the proof of life video was released and even with the rescue of one of the girls, Amina Nkeki whom she called a human intelligence.
“For us, we said if the proof of life video that the CNN released did not help, human intelligence is the highest order of intelligence that you can find provided that the person giving that intelligence experienced what you are trying to know more about,” she said.
Another video was released by the Boko Haram sect where about 50 of the Chibok girls pleaded to be rescued through their spokesperson, Dorcas Nkeki. The group stated that the video has again reignited strong hope that the girls simply need to be somebody’s priority and the person whose priority is the video, and who should be taking actions that will bring back the girls is President Muhammadu Buhari.
The group, with the aim of compelling decisive actions on the part of government, organised series of activities, including a match to Aso Villa.
The match, according to the group, was anchored on three core issues which include the plea for rescue video released by Boko Haram, the worsening humanitarian conditions of IDPs and fellow citizens in the Northeast and the on-going military arms procurement trials.
On three occasions, the group held a peaceful match. Though, the police barricaded the road to the Villa, the group found a way to get its message across. Although in September, a police team stopped the protesters on their way to the Presidential Villa to demand urgency in government’s efforts to free the Chibok schoolgirls who are still in Boko Haram’s captivity two and a half years after they were captured.
The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, after the fracas stated that the group’s activities “threaten public peace and order” adding that “… must not trample on other people’s rights through over-dramatisation of emotions, self-serving propaganda and disrespect of public holders.”
But it seems the last has not been heard of the group. For according to its leader, Ezekwesili, the group has witnessed such police brutality during the past administration and is not deterred by any intimidation.
Recall that during the past administration, the former commissioner of Police in Abuja, Mr. Joseph Mbu, announced the ban of the BBOG campaign in the FCT. The group went to court and won the case.
Now the group, while waiting for the government to act and rescue the girls, added that it will keep demanding, reminding the Buhari-led administration that the issue of the Chibok girls is government neutral and it expects the president as the chief security officer to re-activate action in rescuing the girls.
Ezekwesili, in an interview, stated that the group’s advocacy was administration -neutral adding that whoever is in government will be held accountable in bringing back the abducted Chibok girls.
“Our advocacy has remained focused, issues-based, and consistent. It has remained administration-neutral. And while governments may come and go, we have vowed that as long as our girls are not back, we remain committed to the cause,” she said.
By Chika Mefor