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The fate of more than 200 pupils of the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, abducted by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014, remains uncertain, CHUX OHAI writes
After he was sworn in on May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari told Nigerians that the campaign to rid the country of Boko Haram insurgents would not make sense unless the 219 Chibok school girls abducted by the terrorist group since April 14, 2014 were rescued.
“We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by the insurgents. This government will do all it can to rescue them alive,” the President had said.
Nearly 12 months on, the present Federal Government has intensified its war against Boko Haram with significant results. Current reports indicate that the military has succeeded in chasing the insurgents off swathes of territory that they previously captured in the North-East and at the same time, turned the tide of the war against them.
News of the impending defeat of the sect has, no doubt, elicited warm reactions from many Nigerians and renewed their confidence in Buhari’s ability to deliver on his promise to restore sanity to the country, especially the war-torn North-East.
Also, the recent capture of Khalid Al-Barnawi, identified as one of the leaders of Boko Haram, by the security forces, as well as the Nigerian Army’s claim to have rescued about 3,000 women and children abducted by Boko Haram, give the impression that the current war against insurgency is yielding positive results.
However, the nagging issue is that the missing schoolgirls are nowhere to be found. Precisely two years today, members of the Boko Haram took the girls, all pupils of Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, away from the premises of the school to an unknown destination.
The sudden disappearance of the pupils had introduced another and more sinister dimension to the murderous activities of the group. Realising the import of such brazen violation of the rights of the girls to freedom, the international community rose to condemn the action of the Islamist sect.
A few weeks later, the leader of the Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, released a video in which he claimed responsibility for the kidnap of the Chibok girls. In his usually arrogant manner, Shekau boasted that the girls would never be set free. He threatened to sell the girls, who were shown in the video as slaves or marry them off to his fighters.
Shekau’s statements sparked global outrage, leading to offers from foreign countries, including the United States, Britain, China, Israel, among others, to assist the then Nigerian government led by former President Goodluck Jonathan in finding and rescuing the girls.
The government did at one time or the other offer to negotiate with the insurgents for the release of the abducted girls. But the sect was not willing to accept the offer unless the government agreed to trade the girls for its fighters held in various prisons across the country.
A few days ago, a British newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph, reported that the Boko Haram had demanded a ransom of $50m from the Muhammadu Buhari administration for the release of the Chibok girls.
The paper claimed that it learnt from reliable sources that the group had made the demand through secret contacts with the Federal Government. Apparently, the Boko Haram had acted on the indication that President Buhari was willing to negotiate for the release of the girls. But, the Minister for Culture and Information, Lai Mohammed, has since denied the report.
In a recent interview with the Voice of America, Mohammed said the government was not in a hurry to react to the demand until it had established the credibility of its source and its authenticity.
However, the minister gave the assurance that the President would fulfil his promise to ensure the release of the schoolgirls from Boko Haram captivity.
FG not doing enough – Activists
Some of the leaders of the #Bringbackourgirls Movement have argued that the Federal Government did not do enough to find and rescue the missing Chibok girls. A coordinator of the group, Aisha Yesufu said, in an interview with our correspondent on Wednesday, that from what she observed, it did not look as if the government had searched hard enough for the girls.
Yesufu noted that the government failed to provide Nigerians with evidence that it had done its best to address the matter. She urged the government to do more by creating a feedback mechanism that would enable the parents of the abducted girls and other Nigerians to be informed of every step taken to rescue them.
Lamenting the endless wait for the release of the girls, she said, “It is sad and heartbreaking that the girls have not been rescued since they were abducted two years ago. It is bad enough that nothing seems to be done about it. The last that we heard from President Muhammadu Buhari is the fact that he had no credible intelligence. He has not said anything about how he will go about getting the credible intelligence.
“What is the crime of the Chibok girls? Is it because they are Nigerian and poor? Is it because they want to get educated? If the girls were children of the affluent, would they still be in captivity and would Nigerians just forget them?”
“One thing we have to understand is that as long as the 219 girls remain in captivity, humanity and education are in captivity. Are we such a callous nation that we would watch our children, whom we sent to school, being abducted by strangers and taken to God-knows-where to face unthinkable atrocities? Shouldn’t this be enough reason to unite and fight for our children?
“Failing the Chibok girls simply means that we have failed children all over the world, not only in Nigeria. Our children now look at us, knowing that if they were the ones abducted we would not do anything to rescue them. In that case, what moral justification do we have to tell children to go to school?”
Another leader of the movement, Dr. Emman Shehu, said the government never really searched for the abducted schoolgirls nor made any plan to rescue them.
He added, “If they have been involved in a genuine search for the girls, let them show us the evidence of what has happened before now. What search have they done from the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan up to when the present administration took over? As far as I am concerned, Jonathan did not search for the girls and Buhari is not searching for them. I challenge them to prove to Nigerians that they have been searching for these girls. There has not been any search for the girls in the last 730 days of their captivity. It is as simple as that.”
Shehu argued that it was the duty of the Federal Government to rescue the Chibok girls, no matter what part of the country they came from.
“We don’t care how the government rescues them as long as it does not use force. The girls are Nigerian citizens and they deserve to be protected by the Constitution,” he said.
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Source: Punch News