Some parents of 112 Chibok girls still in Boko Haram’s captivity since they were abducted on April 14, 2014, yesterday recounted their ordeal of living without their children in the last seven years, and expressed optimism that their daughters would rejoin them soon.
The parents spoke to ARISE NEWS, in Chibok and complained that the federal government would appear to be paying less attention to the need to recover the children.
The terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, had abducted 276 girls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State on April 14, 2014.
One of the parents said she kept washing the clothes of her abducted daughters in the faith that one day, they would return to put on their dresses.
Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, however, rekindled that faith yesterday when he expressed the hope that the remaining Chibok schoolgirls would be rescued and reunited with their parents.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Ms.
Sadiya Farouq, spoke along the theme as she said the federal government had not forgotten the remaining girls, adding that it was working to secure their release.
But human rights activists, yesterday, accused the federal government of being incompetent in the handling of the insecurity in the country, insisting that government has not learnt its lessons, seven years after the Chibok girls were abducted from their school.
According to ARISE NEWS Channel, which visited the parents of the abducted schoolgirls, the parents were still in tears.
They were, however, hopeful that their daughters would return someday.
The parents alleged that several attempts to make both the state and federal governments talk to them about their daughters failed because the government was not willing to discuss the matter with them.
“If the government had told us that our daughters were dead, we will feel it for a while and forget about the pains, but in a situation where we are not sure that our daughters are dead, it becomes difficult to conclude that they have died and their memories kept coming. We are, however, hopeful that one day, they will return,” one of the parents said.
There was anger, pain and helplessness, felt among some of the parents when ARISE NEWS visited the community.
The parents expressed worries that many pupils abducted after the Chibok girls abduction, had since been rescued and returned to their parents.
They wondered why the case of the Chibok girls was different.
Most of the parents that spoke to ARISE NEWS Channel said they have more than one daughter in captivity, while some said they have up to three daughters in the terrorists’ den.
Some of the girls who were among those rescued, said although they were now free, some parts of their bodies were still in captivity as long as some of their schoolmates are still with their abductors.
Human rights activist and Strategic Team Member, BringBackOurGirls Movement (BBOG), Dr. Allen Manasseh, who also spoke yesterday on the Morning Show, on ARISE NEWS Channel, expressed sadness that seven years after the abduction of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls, Nigeria was yet to learn lessons from the abduction.
He stated that over 20 parents of the girls have died from health complications induced by the protracted wait for the return of their children.
“The level of engagement with the parents should change; there’s no date on the issue of rescue. We have over 20 parents that died already from blood pressure-related complications; renal failure as a result of blood pressure. Twenty plus parents died, nothing happened,” Manasseh said.
He said the country had witnessed more abduction of students who were still in captivity.
Manasseh, who is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Impact Trust International, a humanitarian organisation working to support victims of violence, said: “The BringBackOurGirls movement started 15 days after the Chibok girls were abducted, and the movement came up because the government did not address the situation with the urgency it deserved. All we heard from the government was blame game and denial of responsibility along party lines, instead of intensifying actions to rescue the abducted girls. If the government was serious in rescuing the Chibok girls, Nigeria would not have witnessed the continued kidnapping and abduction of students that have become rampant today in the North-east part of the country. Today, Nigerian students are forced to choose between going to school and staying alive, and that is the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in the country.”
According to him, the government for some reasons refused to rescue the abducted girls and refused to do a proper investigation of the abduction, so as to prosecute and punish those culpable.
He expressed concern that the government has not entered into any meaningful engagement with the parents of the Chibok girls, seven years after the abduction.
He wondered why the case of the Chibok girls was handed over to the Ministry of Women Affairs, instead of the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria.
Also speaking, the Co-convener, BringBackOurGirls movement, Mrs. Aisha Oyebode, sympathised with the parents of the abducted Chibok girls and shared their sentiments and pains over the non-return of their daughters.
She said the incident happened as a result of incompetence on the part of the federal government to end Boko Haram terror.
She said seven years after, the government had still not ended Boko Haram attacks on innocent citizens.
According to her, Nigeria is in a state of war but does not seem to understand the nature of the war.
She advocated the need for government to address educational challenges in the country and encourage people in the North-east to embrace education and shun violence.
Citing the statement of Zulum, during his state broadcast yesterday on the insecurity in the state, where he said: “I urge parents, especially anyone with a female child, to pause for a while to imagine how it will feel to have one’s daughter abducted and held for more than 2,549 days so far,” Oyebode said the federal government should apologise to the parents of the abducted Chibok girls and to all Nigerian parents whose children had been abducted by Boko Haram insurgents because the government has failed the people.
Oyebode added that every single person kidnapped should be accounted for.
“We will continue to fight until all abducted persons by Boko Haram are reunited to their parents,” Oyebode said.
A lawyer, UNICEF Consultant and Child Rights Advocate, Mr. Taiwo Akinlami, who also spoke on the programme, stated that given the actions of Boko Haram in the past seven years, Nigeria has been plunged into a state of war.
Akinlami also stated that Nigeria has not really been governed well because 1999 Constitution as amended is faulty.
He added that the constitution prioritises the welfare and security of the people, but the government is not adhering to that because the constitution is faulty.
He said the challenge of insecurity has not been addressed by the current and previous governments.
He stated that a situation where government issues statements each time Boko Haram strikes, using the same words should be disregarded by Nigerians because such rhetoric does not show any sign of commitment on the part of the government to end insecurity.
They will be Rescued, Zulum Pledges
Meanwhile, Zulum has expressed the belief that the remaining girls would be rescued and reunited with their parents.
Zulum in a statement yesterday said the mental torture of having a daughter in Boko Haram captivity was worse than losing a child.
The governor said he had interactions with President Muhammadu Buhari, who has not lost hope in securing the release of the girls.
According to him, the president said he had remained unhappy over the continued detention of the girls by the insurgents.
He said: “As a father of daughters, I can’t even imagine the pains of having one’s daughter held by terrorists for as long as seven whole years.
“Certainly, the mental torture of not knowing the fate of one’s daughter in the hands of Boko Haram is far worse than losing a child. No parent can ever lose hope in a missing child and having that hope comes with so much pain of anxiety and depression.
“As a father of all sons and daughters of Borno, I haven’t lost hope that our remaining Chibok schoolgirls and other abducted persons will be safely recovered.”
Zulum said from his interactions with President Muhammadu Buhari, he knew the president remained concerned about the captivity of the girls.
“Countless times, the president has shown me that he is not losing hope in the Chibok girls. He says to me although a number of our girls were reunited with their parents and are being catered for by the federal government, he is not happy until the remaining girls are freed,” he said.
The governor said he and the president will continue to urge everyone in Borno to sustain prayers for the girls and everyone in abduction to be safely freed, and for peace to be fully and permanently restored in Borno.
He called on Nigerians to extend their empathy and support to the parents of the affected girls whom he said have “demonstrated faith and strength in the hope of reconnecting with their missing daughters.”
Students Not Forgotten, Says FG
In a related development, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Farouq, has said the federal government has not forgotten the remaining girls.
She said the government is working to secure the release of the 112 girls still missing.
The minister, at a ceremony in Abuja to mark the seventh anniversary of the Chibok girls’ abduction, said she was grieved by the abduction and prayed that the remaining girls would be reunited with their families.
“Our government came into power with a public mandate to control the insurgency in the North-east led to the Chibok girls’ abduction and to fight the corruption that hampered the rescue effort. We have achieved a lot, but significant work remains for all levels of government. Half of the Chibok girls have been rescued and reunited with their families and have resumed their education. We will continue working to bring back those left behind,” Farouq said.