BY JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
118 days after the abduction of the over 200 school girls from Chibok in Bornu State, the Federal Government has been advised to ensure security for women and girls in the North-Eastern part of the country.
This is coming after a solidarity visit to Chibok by two groups, Echoes of Women in Africa and Vision Spring Initiative, revealed, among others, that the abduction and forceful marriage of girls by Boko Haram insurgents had been ongoing before the Chibok abduction which dragged global attention.
According to Mrs.Louisa Ono-Eikhomun, Executive Director, Echoes of Women Initiative, who spoke during a dialogue with journalists in Lagos, “government has a responsibility to protect its citizenry but this is not so in Chibok. Far before this mass kidnap, girls had been consistently kidnapped and forced to marry members of Boko Haram. We came across a girl who was forced into such marriage. But what has government done till date? Even as we speak, this is still ongoing in Chibok.
“Government alone has the capacity to stem this violence and that why human rights activists will continue to demand protection for women and girls because Nigeria is a signatory to international conventions that seek to protect them in conflict situations”.
Louisa who reiterated the need for government to address the root cause of Boko Haram also called for psycho-socio support for Chibok residents as many were in despair, adding, “Poverty is a major cause of the escalating violence in the state. The culture of almajeri also provides a fertile ground for enlistment into terrorism. From our finding also, both the military and Boko Haram sect are equally guilty of violence against women and girls, and also engage in arbitrary killings in the state.”
Also speaking on the visit sponsored by the Urgent Action Fund- Africa, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, Project Director, Vision Spring Initiative- VSI, chided government for playing politics with the lives of the abducted girls.
“Government was seen giving compensation on television to victims of the insurgents but our visit revealed that the real parents and families of the abducted girls have never been called by government. The people are suffering and living in fear, schools are closed and worst of all is the setback on girlchild education as majority of Chibok mothers are aged peasant farmers and petty traders who sent their daughters to school because of the campaign on girl child education”, Ngozi said.
“The ways women are perceived in the north is also a key challenge. That is why it is important for governmen to implement, throughout North Eastern Nigeria, laws and policies that protect women and girls”, Amy Oyekunle, Executive Director, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy- KIND, added.
Among groups present at the event were the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding-Nigeria and the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria