It is exactly one year now that more than 276 girls from a Government Secondary School in Chibok, in Nigeria’s North-eastern state of Borno, were kidnapped by the Boko Haram insurgent group.
Throughout Nigeria and around the world, outrage and condemnation greeted the abduction of the girls, who were preparing to write their examination. The kidnapping of the teenagers from Chibok community on April 14 last year, also focussed unprecedented world attention to the brutality of insurgency.
The global outrage that followed fuelled the international community led by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and many others, to indicate interest to help locate and rescue the school girls from their captors. It’s now a year on and still no news of their location or how soon they will be rescued.
The Nigerian government for its part, has employed numerous avenues including meetings and the constitution of high powered committees to encourage the insurgent group to come forward with its grievances so as to reach a compromise that will facilitate the release of the girls. All palliatives and carrots were rebuffed by the Boko Haram insurgents.
Boko Haram, which translates literally as ‘western education is sinful’, has in the last one year, kidnapped about two thousand women and girls, raped a countless number of them and displaced thousands of people from their communities, leaving in its wake, a trail of destruction and havoc. Statistics from local and international sources put the figure of deaths due to insurgency at about one thousand, five hundred civilians, in the first three months of this year alone.
A Nigerian solider with hostage women and children freed from Boko Haram captivity (file photo)
The commemoration of the first anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok school girls on Tuesday, the 14th of April, 2015, was essentially to remind all Nigerians and the world that the attack on Chibok was an affront on the dreams and aspirations of the country’s teeming youths that has created unimaginable sorrow for their families, friends and the nation in general.
Several international organisations employed the occasion to emphasise the fact that receiving an education in an environment free from fear and violence must be the right of every child in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
Sad and painful as the reality is, the underlying message from parents and peers of the girls in Nigeria and around the world resonated loudly: “We have not forgotten and we will never forget.”
Even more worrisome is the fact that since the girls were abducted from their school dormitory exactly one year ago, no one has been able to confirm their location or track their abductors. Speculations have however, been rife that they were being held in caves in the Sambisa forest-the den of Boko Haram, while others point to Lake Chad and the Gorsi mountains in Cameroon.
Hopes were raised earlier this year, when the Nigerian military said it had acquired the location of the girls but a rescue operation was later ruled out as too dangerous. This setback notwithstanding, Nigerians and friends of Nigeria must not relent in continuing to raise their voices to demand for the release of the Chibok school girls, unharmed.
In a message of hope on the anniversary of the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, Nigeria’s President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, promised to adopt a new approach in the fight against terrorism, as part of a wider plan to ascertain the location of the girls and rescue them.
General Buhari, an experienced soldier, who had in the course of his military career, successfully crushed the Maitatsine sect in the 1970’s and 1980’s, is equipped with the requisite skills to combat insurgent groups like Boko Haram. He pledged that his government would do everything within its power to bring the Chibok girls back home.
This reassurance rekindles hope for most Nigerians and the global community. It is this hope that must be supported and propelled, so as to galvanise the required strength, will and commitment to rid Nigeria of all forms of terrorism, for it is only then that peace and normalcy can be restored for national economic growth and development.