Chibok Schoolgirls: Five years and still counting
Report by Hassan John
In one of the last times President Muhammad Buhari spoke about the Chibok Schoolgirls in 2017, he said, “We are working day and night with our international partners to release the remaining girls as soon as possible, as well as women and children still on captivity.”
Yet again, speaking through the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the Nigerian government, five years after the abduction of the schoolgirls and after several failed promises, the presidency claims that “diverse efforts are being intensified to secure the release of the Chibok girls, along with all hostages in Boko Haram captivity, including Leah Sharibu.
Focusing more on Leah Sharibu, the statement said “the interlocutors have reported encouraging progress so far. The report reaching us says her return to her family has unfortunately been hindered by the fear of the militants.” Shehu claims that Leah’s continuous captivity is due to the “worry that heavy military presence in areas where they (Boko Haram) previously moved about freely could affect their safety after they return her to the government,” and therefore “the military cannot jeopardise the security of the entire north-eastern region by halting their operations to accommodate Boko Haram’s fears,” Shehu explains.
Speaking to Global Christian News, a public affairs analyst said, “the statement seems to claim the government knows where Leah Sharibu is held captive and the area has a large military presence but the army either lacks intelligence to lead to her release, are incapable of releasing her or this statement is just one of the usual political rhetoric. In my opinion, the army lacks the capacity and Buhari’s political will and commitment to end the insurgency is questionable. We see this with Boko Haram and we see it with the Fulani Cattleherdsmen,” the analyst, who wanted anonymity pointed out.
The government, according to Shehu, is somehow certain that “Leah Sharibu will be reunited with her family as soon as conclusions are reached on a number of options being considered for her safe transportation.”
Alice Loksha, a staff of the International Red Cross, and other government workers, who are still in captivity, has not been mentioned in the statement.
The parents and relatives of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls and Leah Sharibu, however, do not necessarily share the federal government’s optimism. “Our girls have been in captivity for five years, many have died and we do not know the well-being of the rest, nothing has been mentioned about them. I think the government is lying and is hiding somethings from us,” one of the relatives of the abducted Chibok girls, who pleaded anonymity said. “We have stopped looking up to the government to do anything, we have since realized that only God can save and return our daughters,” he said.
Echoing the same sentiment, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Chibok, Rev. Philip Madu, whose two nieces are still in captivity of Boko Haram, said, “well, when a situation is beyond your power to change, you surrender that to God. We have cried and are now tired, and since there doesn’t seem to be anyone who can rescue them, they can’t help themselves either, so the attitude among the families now is simply, if the girls are able to escape, or are eventually released, that is fine, but if they will remain there for the rest of their lives, the hope of the parents is that someday they will meet in heaven, if they continue to stick to their faith in Jesus Christ, We shall someday meet in heaven,” Madu said. The ultimate thing is not just their freedom from Boko Haram but their faith in Christ.” Madu added that as it is now, there is no information at all about the girls,” he added.
In its decade long Jihad in Nigeria, Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of women, young girls as well as boys who have been conscripted into its army. The Islamic jihadi group has used teenagers and young girls as young as 10, as suicide bombers.
While the Nigeria government maintains that it has defeated the Islamist, a large area of the communities in northeastern Nigeria still suffer attacks by the jihadists. There have been at least a dozen attacks by the insurgents since January this year.