Exactly three years ago today, 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State – all of them between the ages of 15 and 19. While 57 of the girls escaped from their abductors on that day, negotiations between the federal government and the insurgents led to the release of 21 others last year just as another three regained their freedom following military operations. The remaining 195 girls are still being held captive by the terrorists.
Since 2014, 117 children have been used by Boko Haram to carry out bomb attacks in public places across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, according to a Unicef report issued Wednesday. The report said 27 children had been used in suicide attacks in the first three months of 2017 compared with nine during the same period last year.
“As a consequence, girls, boys and even infants have been viewed with increasing fear at markets and checkpoints, where they are thought to carry explosives,” said a Unicef news release about the report.
Many Nigerians fear the girls from Chibok would be used as suicide bombers, but no evidence of this exists. Some former captives have said the girls were separated from other captives and received special treatment like more food. Officials said some of the freed girls told them that a handful of their captives classmates died during childbirth or in military raids on Boko Haram camps.
The group Bring Back Our Girls has planned lectures and protests this week to draw attention to the fact that three years have passed without the government fulfilling its promise to rescue all the girls from Chibok. Aware of the fact that other people in the Nigeria are also suffering, the group is calling for a national registry of missing persons that would include people affected by the Boko Haram war and beyond.
TIMELINE ON CHIBOK GIRLS’ ABDUCTION
April 14, 2014: Armed Boko Haram insurgents abducted the Chibok schoolgirls from their dormitory at a time they were writing their final year exams.
About 57 of the girls managed to escape at different times while on transit with their abductors.
April 16, 2014: The military announced that soldiers had rescued over 100 of the girls; a claim the military had to quickly recant after the school principal, Asabe Kwambura, as well as many of the parents of the abducted girls, refuted it.
April 18, 2014: The Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, offered a N50 million reward for any information that could lead to release of the abducted girls. But no credible information was received to help rescue the girls.
April 21, 2014: The governor defied security warnings to visit Chibok where he was informed by members of a local search party who took it upon themselves to go after the girls and their abductors that they had to give up on the mission following a warning that advancing further into Sambisa forest could cost them their lives.
May 12, 2014: Boko Haram released the first video of the abducted girls, a development which confirmed that the girls were actually in the custody of the Abubakar Shekau-led terror group. Mr. Shekau in the video threatened to marry the girls off or use them as part of his war booty.
May 16, 2014: Former President Goodluck Jonathan canceled a planned trip to Chibok where he was scheduled to meet the missing girls’ parents. The cancellation of the trip stirred anger in the town as parents accused Mr. Jonathan of insensitivity to the plight of their kids who had spent 31 days in captivity at that time.
May 18, 2014: A chance to rescue the girls by local hunters was missed when the Borno State government refused to give approval to the local hunters to invade Sambisa forest on the ground that other than their charms and amulets, they lacked the sophistication to confront the armed Boko Haram gunmen.
May 19, 2014: The federal government sent a delegation led by Ibrahim Sabo, a retired Brigadier-General of the Nigerian Army, on a fact-finding mission, amongst other things, to find out why the Borno State government kept the school in Chibok opened when others were closed at that time. The committee did not visit Chibok.
May 20, 2014: The Borno State government set up a N150 million special funds for the rehabilitation of the 57 escapees Chibok girls.
October 16, 2014: The former Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, an Air Vice-Marshal, announced that the federal government had reached a ceasefire deal with leaders of Boko Haram and that the 216 girls in captivity would soon be released. But Boko Haram leaders quickly denied that claim.
November 2, 2014: Boko Haram leader, Mr. Shekau, released a video during which he declared that all the 216 girls in his custody had been converted to Islam and married off. He also denied ever negotiating with the federal government concerning the girls.
March 24, 2015: A woman who escaped from Boko Haram captivity revealed that some of the Chibok girls were being held somewhere near Gwoza and that two of the girls had been killed during a military air strike on one of the terrorists’ locations.
May 29, 2015: President Muhammadu Buhari, in his inaugural speech, promised to end Boko Haram insurgency and rescue the Chibok schoolgirls within six months.
August 29, 2015: President Buhari met 90 of the parents of the abducted Chibok girls during which he restated the promise to rescue the girls.
November 30, 2015: President Buhari dashed the hopes of many Nigerians when he told the world during his maiden media chat that there was no “credible information” on the whereabouts of the Chibok girls.
February 5, 2016: Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, declared that the 219 missing Chibok girls may never be found.
May 18, 2016: One of the abducted Chibok girls, Amina Ali Nkeki, was found with her baby and a man she identified as her husband.
October 13, 2016: Boko Haram released 21 Chibok girls following a negotiation deal.
January 5, 2017: Another Chibok girl, Rakiya Abubakar, was found with her baby, which brings to 23 the number of the abducted girls to have regained freedom to date.
Source: NY Times, AllAfrica.