April 15, 2024

Chibok: Ten years on

US lawmakers pass resolution on Chibok girls, Boko Haram

Chibok girls

The Chibok incident of April 14, 2014, stands as a tragic milestone that has redefined Nigeria, especially Northern Nigeria, in at least two ways. It introduced mass abductions of innocent and defenceless citizens as a way of life and destabilised the security and economic stability of the North.

On that fateful day, a group of Boko Haram jihadists came in trucks to cart away about 276 mostly Christian students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok town in southern Borno State. The worldwide outrage the incident sparked led to the emergence of the #Bring BackOurGirls movement, whose daily protests in Abuja played into the hands of opposition politicians and hostile foreign powers who capitalised on it to harass President Goodluck Jonathan out of power.

Nigeria is a country where government never learns from its blunders or those of its predecessors. While 108 of the Chibok girls remain unaccounted for till date, more school abductions have happened in states like Yobe, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi and Sokoto. Niger, Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara states have experienced repeated abductions, including the recent kidnap and “rescue” of 130 villagers from Kuriga in Kaduna State.

Since Chibok, Northern Nigeria, which used to be among the most secure and peaceful places (save for periods of religious and communal violence) is now almost a no-go area. Armed criminals and hoodlums who now see kidnapping and mass abductions as lucrative “businesses” have driven farmers off their farms, rendering many swathes of farmlands and forests into ungovernable spaces.

As a result, a region that has for years served as the main source of food supply for the country and beyond, is caught in the paroxysms of hunger and multidimensional poverty. Many schools have been forced to close, and the Out of School Children, OSC, syndrome has worsened. The North accounts for over 75 per cent of Nigeria’s estimated 20 million Out of School Children.

The armed forces and the police under former President Muhammadu Buhari appeared aloof to the menace of the so-called bandits even though his native Katsina State was particularly and frequently targeted. The Bola Tinubu administration has deployed the armed forces more effectively, and better results are being achieved.

But because of the existence of networks of saboteurs, collaborators and informants who benefit from the proceeds of this crime, the bandits, criminal herdsmen and jihadists continue to target innocent citizens, especially students, travellers, women and children for ransoms. It is even speculated that some rogue military, police and security officials, disgruntled politicians, traditional leaders as well as crooked clerics collude with the bandits.

Ten years is too long a time for this crime to fester. The measures we have taken against it are not adequate. Unless we recalibrate effectively, it may stay with us for another ten years.