Woman's Own

April 18, 2024

10 Years After Chibok: Nigerian girl-child still endangered species

10 Years After Chibok: Nigerian girl-child still endangered species

By Morenike Taire, Woman Editor, & Ebunoluwa Sessou

At the intersection between Adeola Odeku and Akin Adesola streets in Victoria Island, Lagos, 12-year-old Toma spends most of her day pushing her 14-year-old sister, who is pregnant and in a wheelchair.

At night, they sleep in an empty lot in one of the inner streets not far away which  has become a shanty town of sorts. They are beggars.

Their 35-year-old mother tells WO of how she fled Chibok more than 10 years earlier with her toddlers and taken refuge in Lagos.

“We are lucky,” she said without conviction. “It would be good to go back home, but what can we do?”

#BBOG

Toma and her family had escaped barely a year before the abduction in Aprill 2014, of 276 schoolgirls in her village of Chibok in Borno State. It would have been just another of the vicious atrocities perpetuated by Boko Haram, had the incident not been destined to command global attention.

Russel Simmons, an American entrepreneur and influencer via his @unclerush Twitter account, had reeled off a tweet in distaste at a piece of news he had just read. The abduction was as remote as possible to his opulent, western lifestyle. Yet, he tweeted.

#Bringbackourgirls became by far the most global movement originating from anywhere about Africa since the inception of the digital age,  one which saw the First Lady of the United States passionately calling for the girls’ return. Local activists, mainly women, carried on the movement, with the last woman standing being Ayo Obe, a Lagos lawyer who spent many Saturdays remembering the Chibok girls at Falomo Roundabout, a popular area in Lagos. Eventually, every Chibok girl was found but for 90 who continue to endure devastating violence and coerced marriages.  48 parents of the abducted victims have died.

Matters arising

According to UNICEF, there have been, since 2014, at least 2,400 incidents of grave violations against over 6,800 children in the North-East, including recruitment of children by armed groups; 693 abductions, killing and maiming, with 675 incidents.

“The impact of the conflict on education is alarming, with repercussions that will likely affect generations.”

While survivors in conflict-torn areas  and IDP Camps are counted, those, like Toma who are suffering the effects of conflict and displacement in far flung cities, many in neighbouring Cameroun and Niger, are unaccounted for. Invisible. Forgotten.

Amnesty International confirms this, revealing that between a three-month period, there have been at least five reported cases of abductions in northern Nigeria, including from schools, at Kankara, Kagara, Jangebe, Damishi Kaduna, Tegina and Yawuri while the threat of further attacks has led to the closure of over 600 schools in the north of the country.

Conspiracy theories abound, most of them too bizarre to be entertained. But perhaps it is true what they say, that truth, oftentimes, is stranger than fiction. 

Like Chibok, Like Dapchi

On February 19, 2018, 110 schoolgirls aged 11-19 years old were kidnapped from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi , Yobe State.  The Nigerian Air Force was deployed immediately and other security agencies.

Five schoolgirls died on the same day of their kidnapping; Boko Haram released everyone else in March 2018, save the lone Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, who refused to convert to Islam. The source of this information remains unclear.

While Nigerians like to say the right things about her girls, few policies are in place to actually ensure their protection and wellbeing. The situation is across board. Like Chibok, like Dapchi, like Nigeria.

State of the nation

Where lamentation is concerned, Nigeria has done an excellent job. Government is on top of the list of culprits, though there have been three different administrations led by two different political parties. The politics of insecurity remains unclear.

Executive Director, Sustainable Gender Action Initiative,  Mufuliat Fijabi, told WO that it is a disappointment that as a country, we have not been successful with having the Chibok girls back.

“While I commend the families of the girls for their resilience, the government should adopt different and more innovative strategies to ensure their return,” she said.

Ģirls still not safe

International Human Rights Lawyer, who is also a US Secretary of State awardee on International Religious Freedom, Kola Alapinni told WO the spate of kidnappings of school children has not abated.

“In fact, it appears it has increased if we go by the figures. The State has failed in its primary responsibility of securing the lives and properties of its citizens.

“Also, the overt discrimination against returnee girls and their children must be addressed by the government. This has made it difficult for them to be reabsorbed into their community.

“Why has intelligence continued to fail or refused to be acted upon, especially where it concerns attacks on schools and the girl-child? It is abnormal. The recent kidnappings in Kaduna State, a decade after Chibok, is so poignant. How many more abductions would we have to endure? 

“It is doubtful whether trying to reabsorb terrorists into the communities they once terrorised is a winning strategy against the war on terror. It seems more like an incentive for deviant behaviour, and it has become counter-productive.

“Government must have a rethink. An industry seems to be thriving out of insecurity issues in our country. It is inexplicable that government has not been able to resolve this issue for almost two decades. Something is definitely not adding up”, he said.

“It is evident that there is a critical need for improved security measures, education, and support systems for vulnerable communities. This tragic event highlighted the vulnerabilities faced by young girls in conflict zones and highlighted the importance of international cooperation in addressing such crises and the importance of prioritizing the protection and empowerment of vulnerable populations, especially young girls.

“Additionally, it emphasized the urgent need for trauma counselling and psycho-social support for survivors and their families, as well as advocacy for girls’ education and empowerment to prevent similar incidents in the future,” he said.

In his opinion, a humanitarian leader, Tunde Ojei said: “Government must prioritize security reform, intelligence gathering, and collaboration with local communities to effectively combat kidnapping. Investment in education and economic development in vulnerable areas is crucial for addressing the root causes of insecurity. Furthermore, implementing policies that hold perpetrators accountable and provide comprehensive support for victims and their families, is essential. Strengthening law enforcement agencies and judicial systems to ensure swift and fair justice is also imperative. 

“Additionally, to reinforce the confidence of parents in sending their children back to school, it’s crucial to provide some form of reassurance regarding the security system in education centers,” he concluded.

Vanguard News