Chibok Girls: Still A Raging Controversy

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On the 14th day of April 2014, about 2l76 girls were abducted from their school , the Chibok Secondary School, in Chibok town, Borno State.  While 57 girls managed to escape that night, some by jumping off moving vehicles, 219 were taken into captivity. Between 2016 and 2017, more than 100 of them were eventually either escaped or were freed, according to figures from Amnesty International, about 82 are still missing.

Not only did it shock Nigeria and the world at large, but it quickly elicited the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, which included former US First Lady Michelle Obama, and .Malala Yousafzai, the female Pakistani education activist who won Nobel Peace Prize in 2024, thereby becoming the youngest to ever win the Nobel prize.The #BringBackOurGirls campaign was started in order to advocate for the release of the kidnapped students. Over time, the social media movement came to represent not just the call for the release of the girls still in captivity but also a plea for the government of Nigeria to take action on what the movement organisers called “an assault on girl child education especially in the north east.” 

In Abuja, the nation’s capital, the campaigners gathered around the Unity Fountain in the Maitama area of the city centre. But months down the line, their numbers began dwindling until the gathering seized completely.

Ten years down the line and despite the seeming forgetfulness of Nigerians, the incident is still shrouded in controversy thereby leaving many unanswered questions.

Such questions as: Why were the students returned back to the school and to no other venue to write their final paper when the school had previously been shut down for security reasons?

What happened to the about 100 of the students still believed to be in captivity, and if they haven’t been murdered or sold off as slaves?

Why did successive government’s not pursue their release with commitment, and why did the campaign fizzle out when the innocent children were still in captivity?

All these questions plus the fact that the released girls cannot fully reintegrate into society due to them being treated with suspicion as they are being perceived as working for their abductors, Boko Haram, have all made the controversies surrounding their abduction linger.

Ten years on, many of the Chibok abductees, now women, have either been freed or escaped, but about 100 are still missing. Those who returned home, some of whom gave birth while in captivity, have often been viewed as Boko Haram collaborators and shunned by their communities.

Analysts say what may have lead to this treatment by their communities is that the overwhelming majority of the kidnapped girls who were Christian were forced to convert to Islam while in captivity.

According to Rachael Bako, a mother whose two nieces were among the abducted Chibok girls, “as a mother, I really feel for these girls because their communities including their families are now very suspicious of them. You can’t blame them because these girls who were mostly Christians like my nieces who would never miss church service now abhor Christianity. So how do you think their parents, siblings and the community will be comfortable around them?  

For northern Nigeria, little has changed. Kidnappings have continued unabated and.the ongoing violence has cast a long shadow over education, especially that of girls, further limiting the possibilities in a part of the country already marked by vastly higher rates of poverty, illiteracy in girls and child marriage. 

Between February 2014 and December 2022, according to data from international. NGO, Save  the.   Children, raids on schools have persisted across Nigeria (though the vast majority are in the country’s northwest region), with dire consequences for both students and teachers or school workers: at least 1,743 have been kidnapped, nearly 200 killed and 25 buildings schools destroyed.Wbhike boys’ schools have not been spared from the scourge of violence, girls’ education remains particularly vulnerable because girls in this region, who are already lagging behind their peers in other parts of the country, are being directly targeted.

After the Chibok incident which albeit set the pace for future girl’s schools abductions, Northern Nigeria has had a fair share of such incidents.

For instance in early March, no fewer than 15 students were reported missing following the mass abduction in the Gidan Bakuso area of Gada Local Government Area of Sokoto State. According to media reports,. the aggressors invaded the community, shot one person and abducted the students from their school around 1:00 am on Saturday.

The incident happened barely 24 hours after reports of the abduction of about 100 primary school pupils and 187 secondary school students in Kuriga, Chikun Local Government Area, Kaduna State. And there have been several such abductions across the North since the Chibok incident.

According to a survey carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF in 2021, over half of women aged 15-49 in the Northeastern and Morthwestern regions were illiterate, compared to less than 1% in the Southeast and 7% in the Southwest. In addition, approximately half of girls in the northeast and around 40% in the northwest were not attending primary or lower secondary school, in contrast to less than 10% in the southern states

According to UNICEF, by 2030, Nigeria will have “17% of the children in Africa and 5% of the children in the world. As the UN children’s agency put it: “Nigeria’s child population is large and growing… What happens to children in Nigeria matters significantly to regional and global development.”

“We know that when we educate women, that has a multitude of returns and economic growth,” Executive Director of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, GCPEA, Lisa Chung Bender told CNN. “Educating women is the best return on investment that any country can make. If Nigeria wants to advance… the best investment [is] getting all girls into school and having them stay in school through completion.”  

“So from all these reports, we can all see that the controversy surrounding the Chibok girl’s abduction has led to a domino effect , plunging Nigeria almost neck deep into the murky waters of school’s abductions,” A public affairs analyst, Shuna Fakum says.

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