Eight years after, Chibok still unsafe

Eight years after, Chibok still unsafe

FOR the people of Chibok, it has been an unending nightmare. As they continue to relive the agony of the terrorist outrage that shot their rustic town and villages into global limelight eight years ago, their tormentors strike frequently. Terrorists identified with ISWAP, a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, attacked a village in the Chibok Local Government Area on April 19 during which they kidnapped three teenage girls. It is tragic that after the notorious mass abduction of 276 schoolgirls in 2014, the Nigerian has failed to stop frequent attacks on the defenceless people by Islamist marauders.

Calamitously, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has not been able to fulfil the solemn promise he made seven years ago to rescue all the girls. He and the military have also failed to protect the area against incessant attacks and kidnapping by the terrorists. The agony of the people can only imagined.

Recall that of the 276 initial abductees, 110 are still unaccounted for. Many who returned had had children for the fiends who kidnapped them and forcibly “married” them, disrupted their education and upturned their lives.  Amnesty International stated that the 110 returnee girls were reunited with their parents between 2016 and 2018 after a ransom of €3 million was paid by the Federal Government.

What saddens the people most is the inability of the and the security forces to protect Chibok from the continued torture.

Last week’s attack follows a pattern. In January, the Kibaku Area Development Association, an umbrella group of the people of Chibok LGA, disclosed that in the last 10 years, the area had endured 72 terrorist attacks. It said 407 residents were killed in the attacks, and that apart from the Chibok school girls, 332 others had been kidnapped. In addition, 20 churches had been burnt down, houses and business premises torches, vehicles stolen and farmland, harvests and barns destroyed. In one attack mid-January, 25 girls were captured out of which eight escaped, leaving 17 to be ferried away. A few days earlier, ISWAP gunmen had raided several communities in the area, killing four people and kidnapping 24 others.

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The Chairman, Chibok LG, Umar Ibrahim, briefing the visiting governor of Borno, Babagana Zulum, said 73 houses, 33 shops and four churches were razed during several raids alongside 11 vehicles.

As KADA lamented, “Chibok has been for all intents and purposes abandoned to its own devices by all layers of in Nigeria.” Its national president, Dauda Iliya, said the spate of attacks had increased since 2018 with frequent kidnappings of mostly girls. This is sad.

There should special arrangements made to secure Chibok, rescue all those in captivity, rehabilitate its people and rebuild it as an enviable haven of peace and progress. Neglecting it as the has done hands the terrorists an undeserved victory. After the 2014 outrage when the Goodluck Jonathan administration not only failed to act on intelligence alert prior to the attack, but also shockingly failed to pursue the abductors for weeks after, Chibok was expected to be well fortified thereafter.

The succeeding Buhari regime, after initial military successes against the insurgents, appears to have abandoned Chibok community to its fate. No fewer than 20 parents of the kidnapped girls have died from health complications, disclosed Allen Manasseh of the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group

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Unfortunately, the continuing trauma of the Chibok parents is slipping from public consciousness. Obviously, it is no longer a priority for the Federal Government. This should change. Buhari should fulfil his promise and pursue the safe return of all the remaining Chibok girls and other abductees in the country by whatever means. In October 2020, the United States sent in commandos to rescue a single American, Philip Walton, held captive in the Nigeria-Niger Republic border. United Kingdom’s Special Boat Service commandos attempted to free one Briton and an Italian held hostage by terrorists in Sokoto in March 2012.

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Nigeria’s intelligence and military forces should invest in and develop the capability for such special missions. If other countries can mobilise immense resources, traverse faraway places to rescue their nationals, it is inexcusable that Nigeria cannot rescue its citizens held on its own territory.

Since the Chibok 2014 attack, more than 1,500 school children – mostly schoolgirls – have been abducted and murdered in northern Nigeria said AI. UNICEF says that no fewer than 11,536 schools have been closed due to abductions of school children by terrorists in the North, disrupting the education of approximately 1.3 million Nigerian children in the 2020/2021 academic year.

Nigerian authorities should learn from how Rwanda – a country whose past genocide received as much global attention as Chibok – rebuilt its systems by prosecuting offenders, improving citizens’ access to education, providing equal opportunities for women and driving economic growth through investments in tourism, production and infrastructure.

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The Federal Government should fortify Chibok; deploy more military personnel there to halt the continuous attacks on the community. The Borno State Government should pour resources into rebuilding Chibok town and area to an enviable height with infrastructure, schools, health facilities and promotion of businesses and investments. Zulum should set up a very effective, well-trained, armed, equipped local and state-wide vigilance corps, emphasising human and ICT-leveraged technology, including drones. Iraq’s federal, provincial and city are partnering with international agencies to rebuild Mosul after its devastation by the Islamic State that targets, among others, enabling 1.6 million people to regain access to essential public services.

There should be effective governance and provision of social services to deny terrorists a vacuum to fill. Zulum should act on the suggestion for N12 billion investments annually in the state’s terror-ravaged areas by partnering with the Federal Government, international agencies, donors and CSOs.

Pressure groups such as the BBOG should revive their advocacy and continue to hold the s feet to the fire until it rescues the remaining girls and secures Chibok.

 

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