In February 2014, Nigerians were frozen by the chilling news of the killing of 59 school boys by Boko Haram in Yobe State. The buildings in the school were all burnt down, after the school boys were shot dead. The horror had only just begun. Less than two months after, the Islamic Extremist Terror Group rocked the world with their abduction of 267 schoolgirls, aged 16-18 from their boarding school on the night of April 14,2014. The innocent girls were finalists at the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State.
A couple of weeks later, on May 5, 2014, the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau released a video claiming responsibility for the abductions, even as he vowed to “sell” all the girls. The same month, a chilling video of the girls in captivity was released. In it, the girls begged for their release.
(Yesterday) Saturday October 5,2019 made it 2000 days in the captivity of terrorists for the 112 girls currently remaining.That is five and a half long years of terror and anguish for these unarmed, innocent schoolgirls. Their trauma and suffering is what is brought to mind today; their 2001st in captivity, even as this serves to remind the global community of the need to rescue the Chibok girls!
There are others too,to be rescued and brought back. The militant arm of Boko Haram,the Albarnawi Faction staged another schoolgirl abduction in 2018,taking 110 students captive from a girls school in Dapchi, Yobe State. After receiving millions of dollars as ransom from the government, the terrorists on March 25 2018 still failed to release one of the Dapchi girls; the now iconic Leah Sharibu. Sharibu, a Christian refused to forcibly convert to Islam and remains a captive to this day ( today makes it 594 days in captivity, that is 19 months and 2 weeks exactly).
Then there is Alice Ngaddah, another sad case. She was one of 3 humanitarian workers from the ICRC and UNICEF.They were also kidnapped by the deadly Albarnawi in 2018. Ngaddah is the only survivor of the 3 following official refusal to pay any ransom. Her captors spared her life only so they could enslave her; promising her a lifetime of slavery. All she ever did was to work to rescue and help victims of terrorist attacks!
About 50 of the Chibok girls managed to escape in the early months, including Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu, who both leapt out of the truck of their abductors.( 57 girls have reportedly escaped). In 2017, the President of the USA, Donald Trump hosted the 2 Chibok girls Joy and Lydia at the White House, along with his daughter Ivanka. The terrorists had promised to sell the girls; President Trump assured that combating human trafficking was a top priority of his administration.
In October 2016 there was a wonderful breakthrough: 21 girls were freed in a prison swap. And then in May 2017, 82 more girls were released in exchange for 5 Boko Haram commanders held in custody. President Muhammadu Buhari received the girls at the Presidential Villa, along with top government functionaries also on hand for the reception.
All through,it has been a long hard walk for all,outside of captivity. Around the world,vigils were held under the banner #BringBackOurGirls to mark 100 days in captivity,in July 2014. Exactly 5 years ago in October 2014, the Nigerian Embassy in New York was besieged by protesters,led by the R&B diva Alicia Keys to protest 6 months of the Chibok Girls in captivity. A lot of celebrities the world over have weighed in on the BringBackOurGirls movement- Kim Kardashian, Wesley Snipes, Beyonce, and Ellen DeGeneres have all spoken out, amongst many others celebrities. Malala Youfsafzai has met with some of the freed girls, and former US First Lady Michelle Obama has lent her support. Recently, a Nigerian filmmaker, Joel Kachi Benson won an award at the 2019 Venice Film Festival for his documentary ‘Daughters of Chibok ‘. And Isha Sesay, former CNN presenter has published her first book ‘Beneath the Tambarind Tree’- on the Chibok Girls.
In Abuja, at the Unity Fountain; a daily, unbroken sit -in is held for the girls. Gapani Yanga is the longest serving coordinator of the sit-in ,ongoing for 5 years now. The commemoration of 2000 days involved the release of a press statement and figurative display of 112 pairs of girls’ shoes- to depict the still missing girls.
Emotions have been stirred across the globe. From New Zealand, this is Rose Wingate,”The kidnapping of schoolgirls in their masses in 2014. Tragically sad for the parents and Chibok community. We still mourn for their loss every day.112 Chibok girls remain with Boko Haram terrorists. How horrid for us”.
Surely,she speaks for us all, Nigerian and non-Nigerian alike.
We want Leah, Agnes and the other 112 Chibok girls rescued, and freed from their agony.