The Director Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, has asked the Federal Government to do more in rescuing the abducted Chibok girls and the remaining Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu.
Mr Ojigho stated this in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Borno.
“What happened in Chibok should have served as a wake-up call to the Nigerian government. Yet four years on, thousands more women and girls have been taken from their homes and forced to live in captivity, in events largely unnoticed and unreported by media,” Mr Ojigho was quoted as saying in a statement by the Media Manager of the organisation, Isa Sanusi.
“The time is long overdue for the government to deliver meaningful action on behalf of all these victims of Boko Haram’s crimes.
“Far more support must also be provided for past victims. For the families of those still missing, the government should open a register for abducted people, ensuring that the tens of thousands of people living in displacement camps get the opportunity to register their loved ones.”
The Chibok girls were abducted on April 14, 2014, from theGovernment Girls Secondary School in Chibok.
President Muhammadu Buhari says the remaining Chibok girls in Boko Haram captivity will not be forgotten as long as he remains Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The President’s comments come a day to the fourth anniversary of the abduction of the girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State.
In a series of tweets, the Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said President Buhari assured the parents of the girls that “their daughters will never be forgotten or abandoned to their fate”.
“Don’t imagine for a moment that we have forgotten about our daughters or that we consider their freedom a lost course,” he quoted the President, who is in London, as saying.
The President encouraged the parents to keep their hopes alive, noting that the recovery of more than a 100 of the girls that were kidnapped through the Federal Government’s determined effort should give confidence that all “hope is not lost”.
He added that the government remained focused and determined to see the girls return to their homes.
Boko Haram had abducted more than 200 girls from the school on April 14, 2014.
More than 50 of them escaped shortly after their abduction and the Buhari administration negotiated and secured the release of 103 of the girls.
But over 100 of the girls are still being held captive with their parents and the Bring Back Our Girls Group continuing to call on the government to secure their release.
The President, who acknowledged that the process of rescuing the girl had taken long, blamed the delay on a breakdown of negotiations with Boko Haram terrorists.
He said, “We are concerned and aware that it is taking long to bring the rest of our daughters back home, but be assured that this administration is doing its very best to free the girls from their captors.
“Unfortunately, the negotiations between the government and Boko Haram suffered some unexpected setbacks, owing mainly to a lack of agreement among their abductors, whose internal differences have led to a divergence of voices regarding the outcome of the talks.”
Although he noted it was not the news the parents of the girls were expecting, he said it was best to be “as honest as possible” with them.
Despite the setback, the President said the government won’t give up. “This government is not relenting. We’ll continue to persist, and the parents should please not give up. Don’t give up hope of seeing our daughters back home again. Don’t lose faith in this government’s ability to fulfill our promise of reuniting you with our daughters,” he said.
On April 14, 2014, Saraya Amos and 56 of her classmates staged a daring escape from Boko Haram jihadists who raided their secondary school in Chibok, northeast Nigeria.
Unlike the 219 girls who were spirited away in a convoy of trucks into the darkness, most of them not to be seen again for several years, the 57 were considered the lucky ones.
But as Nigeria on Saturday marks the fourth anniversary of the mass abduction that captured world attention, some of the ones that got away are unhappy and feel abandoned.
Most of the 106, who have been found or freed as a result of government negotiations with Boko Haram, are now studying at the private American University of Nigeria in Yola, Adamawa state.
“We deserve equal treatment and opportunity,” said Amos, who still lives with her parents in Chibok and helps on the family farm.
“Those rescued are now studying at the university while we have been forgotten.”
While the former captives have gone back to education at the AUN, Amos and other escapees say they have struggled to finish theirs, despite government pledges of support.
High school tuition fees were covered but auxiliary costs such as travel and food have made staying in education impossible, they say.
Amos said that has “destroyed” her dream of becoming a lawyer.
“We feel extremely bad and abandoned, our future is hanging in the balance because the chance of furthering our education is bleak,” she added.
– ‘Frustrated’ –
Hadiza Fali, 20, wants to become an agricultural engineer. She said it was painful and frustrating to see that not all the Chibok girls’ fortunes have turned out the same.
“I don’t envy my colleagues who are in school, I only feel let down and treated like a second-class citizen. I so much want to continue with my education if given the chance,” she said.
“We are not in school, we have been idling away at home for the past one year doing nothing, apart from helping out parents on the farm.”
Yakubu Nkeki, chairman of the Chibok girls parents association, said students who gained the results to head to university were in limbo and their impoverished parents were unable to help.
“It is true the girls are still at home without anything to do because the promise that the government made to them has not been fulfilled,” Nkeki said.
“I met with some of the parents of the girls who bitterly complained that the government has abandoned their daughters at home.”
Despite global publicity about the kidnapping, the girls’ plight is not unusual in Nigeria’s remote northeast, where access to education was low even before the start of Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency in 2009.
According to Nigeria’s Demographic and Health Survey in 2013, just eight per cent of women in the region complete secondary school.
Nine years of fighting has equally made it harder for students in impoverished rural areas, as Boko Haram has targeted schools and teachers.
– ‘Too difficult’ –
The Borno state government pledged to spend 1.5 million naira ($4,167, 3,400 euros) on each of the girls who escaped their abductors every year until they finished university.
Three attended a missionary college in the United States with the help of a Christian charity.
Fifty-four others from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok were enrolled in two private boarding schools elsewhere in Nigeria.
Christians were sent to study in the central city of Jos while Muslim students were taken to the northern city of Katsina.
Seventeen girls dropped out because their parents could not afford to pay for food and basic toiletries, such as sanitary napkins.
“Surprisingly, the parents of the girls were left to substantially pay for their daughters’ upkeep while in school,” said Ayuba Alamson, a community leader in Chibok.
“On one occasion I had to kneel before a mother and begged her to allow her daughter return to school in Jos.”
Three of the girls sent to Katsina dropped out because their parents could not raise the 12,000 naira ($33, 27-euro) transport fare for the 730-kilometre (450-mile) trip back to school at the end of holidays.
“They found it too difficult to cope and dropped out,” said Yagana Yamane, who wants to be a doctor.
Instead of forging a potential career, they are following a familiar path.
“One of them has gotten married and the other two are planning their weddings,” said the 18-year-old, who fears marriage may be the only option for her as well.
President Muhammadu Buhari has asked Nigerians to continue to pray for the safe return of the remaining Chibok girls, and others in Boko Haram captivity.
The president made the request in his Easter message to Nigerians on Thursday, one month and 10 days after the terrorists who abducted schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, snatched 110 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State.
Five of the Dapchi girls had died in captivity, 104 of them were freed on March 21 and reunited with their parents on Sunday. However, the terrorists held one, Leah Sharibu, back; allegedly because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.
Her fate has remained a source of worry with many calling for her release.
President Buhari is thankful for the release of Leah’s schoolmates and is hopeful that all those still in captivity would also regain their freedom. He, however, believes the prayers of Nigerians would help.
“I am very optimistic that all others, including the Chibok girls who are still in captivity, will be safely released unconditionally to their families. I urge you to continue to pray for their safe return,” he said in a statement.
The abduction of the schoolgirls had raised concerns about the safety of schools, especially in the North East which is the hotbed of the Boko Haram insurgency.
To ensure such an incident does not occur again, the President said security agencies have been given directives to protect schools.
“I have given clear instructions to our security agencies to prioritise safety in schools in areas where the humanitarian and security situation are still dire, in addition to ensuring adequate protection of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),” President Buhari said.
With the 2019 elections less than a year away, President Buhari also used his Easter message to call on politicians to be law abiding.
He said, “As we approach the period of campaigns, I appeal to our political actors and other stakeholders to resist any act that could mar the integrity of our electoral process.
“I am optimistic that with God on our side, the dark days of Nigeria’s elections being manipulated by violence and rigging by corrupt politicians and their agents are over.
“They are confined to the dustbin of history where they rightly belong. I remain committed to bequeathing a legacy of supremacy of the people’s will through the ballot box.”
Parents of the remaining Chibok girls who are yet to be released by Boko Haram terrorists, on Saturday, met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta the Ogun state capital.
Addressing them at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, the former president asked them not to lose faith and confidence in God despite their anguish.
Thier visit comes days after the Federal Government secured the release of students who were equally abducted from the Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe state.
Over 100 of them were abducted on February 19, 2018, but following negations between the terrorists and the Federal Government, they were subsequently released on March 21.
While parents of the girls and the nation at large celebrated their release, the government has come under attacks by the opposition over the circumstances surrounding the entire incident.
Some families have also been thrown into mourning following news of the death of five of the girls as a result of trauma from the abduction.
Meanwhile, another student has remained in captivity on grounds that she failed to denounce her faith as a Christian.
The Federal Government has, however, promised to do all it can to secure her release just like the others.
The same words of hope were given to the parents of Chibok girls who are yet to be released.
The girls, numbering over 200, were abducted in April 2014 from their school in Chibok town of Borno state.
Nearly four years after, the government has managed to secure the release of some of them in several batches while over 100 still remain in captivity.
While groups such as the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) have continued to be a strong voice in advocating for the release, many Nigerians have also called on the government to do everything they can, just as in the case of the Dapchi girls, to reunite them with their families.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is optimistic that the Federal Government will secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in 2014.
The party said this in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Bolaji Abdullahi on Wednesday, while reacting to the release of at least 100 abducted students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, in Yobe State.
The arrival of the girls earlier today was trailed by jubilation from parents and local residents, following their abduction by members of the outlawed group on February 19.
Reacting to the development, the APC described the “prompt release” of the Dapchi schoolgirls as another solid demonstration of the political will of the President Muhammadu Buhari led APC administration to secure the lives of all Nigerians.
The statement read in part: “With this prompt release of the Dapchi girls, the APC government has demonstrated how government should respond to such situations.
“If the immediate-past Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration had responded with the similar alacrity, the Chibok schoolgirls would have been released or rescued. Instead, the PDP wasted several weeks wallowing in denial and conspiracy theories such that it was now left for the APC government to rescue many of the girls and rehabilitate them.”
The ruling, however, assured Nigerians that the current administration remains committed to securing the release of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls still held in terrorists’ custody.
They also pledged to ensure that the girls are ultimately rehabilitated and reunited with their families and loved ones.
The APC was also confident that reforms of the Federal Government would improve the capacity and efficiency of the security agencies to prevent the kidnap of children by terrorists and diminish their ability to carry out attacks on soft targets.
Despite celebrating the return of the Dapchi schoolgirls, some Nigerians were concerned about how the girls were returned while their abductors were not intercepted by security operative.
Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, on his part, explained the rationale behind the girls’ return, noting that they were released unconditionally.
“For the release to work, the government had a clear understanding that violence and confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls, hence a non-violent approach was the preferred option.
“Within the period when the girls were being brought back, operational pause was observed in certain areas to ensure free passage and also that lives were not lost,” the minister said.
President Muhammadu Buhari has explained why the Federal Government chose negotiation rather than the military option to secure the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls and the remaining Chibok girls in the custody of Boko Haram terrorists.
Speaking while receiving the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on Monday at State House in Abuja, he noted that Nigeria prefers to have the schoolgirls back alive.
President Buhari added that the government was working in concert with international organisations and negotiators, to ensure that the girls were released unharmed by their captors.
“We are trying to be careful. It is better to get our daughters back alive,” he said in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina.
The President thanked the United States government for assistance rendered in the fight against insurgency, noting that Nigerian forces are good, “but need assistance in the areas of training and equipment.”
He promised that his administration would continue to do its best to secure the country, shortly after he visited Benue State where he met with stakeholders over the killings in the state.
President Buhari added that he would be in Yobe State later in the week, from where the Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted “as part of my condolence and sympathy visits to areas where we have had unfortunate events.”
With less than one year to the general elections, he promised to ensure free and fair polls.
The President recalled that the then U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, had visited before the 2015 polls, “and he told the party in government then, and those of us in opposition, to behave ourselves, and we did.”
In his response, the visiting U.S. Secretary of State commended President Buhari on his strides in the anti-corruption war, to which the Nigerian leader responded that moneys recovered are being invested on development of infrastructure.
Mr Tillerson described Nigeria as a very important country to the U.S, stressing: “You have our support in your challenges.”
“We will also support opportunities to expand the economy, commercial investments, and peaceful polls in 2019,” he added.
The Nigerian Army has explained how the Chibok girl, Salomi Pogu, and 2,000 others including women and children were rescued following military operations around Gwoza and Sambisa general area of Borno state.
The Theatre Commander of the Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Rogers Nicholas, noted that Pogu is the 107th Chibok school girl to be rescued nearly four years after abduction.
Addressing journalists on Thursday, he explained that: “Operations are going on across the Sambisa General area and as a result, this morning, one of the abducted Chibok girls was rescued alongside one other girl who has a baby.
“They are here with us and are undergoing medicals thereafter we would hand them over to the state government for further administration,” the Theatre Commander stated.
He also noted that operations in the northern axis of the state have led to the capture of some areas and recovery of equipment.
“We recovered some gun trucks, some armoured vehicles, a large quantity of ammunition and rocket launchers among others. There was no casualty on our side but there was a heavy casualty on their side,” Rogers stated.
Furthermore, he noted that over 200 Boko Haram members surrendered to the troops in the northern fringes during the operations around Tumbus in Chad general area.
General Rogers attributed the successes recorded to the collaborative efforts of the components of Operation Lafiya Dole which he said include the Army, Airforce, Navy, Police, State Security Service, Civil Defence and the Civilian JTF.”
Speaking on the recent review of curfew hours in Maiduguri from 10 pm to 8 pm by the state government, the theatre command explained that intelligence reports informed the decision.
“Curfews are normally imposed based on operational exigencies, based on security report; we are conducting operations so when we got some intelligence we needed to review the curfew.
“Curfews are normally imposed by the state government we can only advise them on what we think should be done and his Excellency felt it was okay so he announced the review; when we are also satisfied with the situation we will let him know again and he will lift the curfew,” he assured.
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the payment of N164,763,759 for the tuition fees of 106 Chibok girls that have regained freedom from the Boko Haram terrorists.
This was contained in a statement issued on Sunday in Abuja by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.
According to the statement, the money is meant for the second semester school fees of the Chibok girls at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.
The President, who was reviewing the progress report submitted to him in line with his commitment to personally monitor the rehabilitation and reintegration into society of the freed Chibok girls, said the Federal Government would provide full support for their education.
He also renewed his commitment to bringing back the remaining girls held by the terrorists through all possible means, just as he commended the progress made in the rehabilitation the 106 freed girls who are already back in school.
“According to the progress report received by the President, the decision to pursue avenues in addition to military action to free the abducted girls is in the resolve to protect the lives of all Nigerians, to end the insurgency in the North East of the country, and to fulfil one of the campaign promises of the President.
“In line with this, the Federal Government entered into negotiations with the Boko Haram terrorist group for the release of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped from their school dormitory on the night of April 14, 2014. So far, two batches of 21 and 82 girls have been freed as a result of those negotiations.
“Three additional girls were rescued by the gallant efforts of our armed forces, bringing the total number of freed Chibok girls so far to 106,” the statement said.
The report revealed that the girls were taken to secure medical centres for attention as a result of their experiences while in captivity as they were severely traumatised and afflicted by various ailments and injuries.
They also went through debriefing and de-radicalisation by security operatives, after which they were handed over to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
The ministry was assigned the main role in supervising the rehabilitation and reintegration of the girls back into society.
Long before the girls were released, the Federal Government had established the ‘Chibok Girls Desk’ in the ministry, responsible for acting on matters relating to the abducted Chibok schoolgirls and serving as a channel of communication between relevant agencies and the parents and relatives of the abducted girls.
The government, through the Ministry Of Women Affairs, and in collaboration with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and other donor agencies, embarked on programmes earmarked to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of the girls with a time frame of nine months
The Presidency said a hostel in the National Centre for Women Development was converted into a suitable shelter, where the girls were kept for the nine-month period.
The programme, which began in January 2017, ended in September 2017, during which the 106 girls were given lessons in English, Mathematics, Biology, Agriculture, and Civic Education, while they were trained in ICT and vocational skills in addition.
According to the statement, professionals were also engaged to provide them with psychosocial therapy and one-on-one counseling to help them overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
They were provided with religious instruction and comprehensive care by two in-house doctors and two nurses while periodic visits from the girls’ parents to stimulate family support and reunion were sponsored and organised by the ministry.
“The absorption of the 106 girls into the school marked the beginning of their integration into the larger Nigerian society, thus fulfilling President Buhari’s promise of providing the best education for them.
“Although they have been officially handed over to their parents, the Federal Government will continue to be responsible for the payment of the Chibok girls’ school fees right up to their graduation from the school,” the statement read.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the government is working day and night to secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls and other captives in the hands of Boko Haram.
Buhari made the promise on Thursday, November 16, at the book presentation entitled: ‘Making Steady, Sustainable Progressive for Nigeria’s Peace and Prosperity: A mid-term scorecard on the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration.’
“During the year it was my great pleasure to secure the release of 102 Chibok school girls. We are doing our best quietly and effectively as possible to get the rest released.
“We are working day and night with our international partners to release the remaining girls as soon as possible, as well as women and children still in captivity,” Buhari said.
The Governor of Borno State Mr Kashim Shettima says there is a good chance that the Chibok girls who are still in captivity can be found in the Sambisa Forest.
Governor Shettima said this in an exclusive interview with Channels Television on Friday, amid continued anticipation about their release or rescue.
He said, “The last time they were picked, they were picked from the banky axis. So probably, for those of them that are under the custody of Shekau, they may be deep in the boil of the Sambisa forest.
“That is my own opinion. For those of them that are with other groups that are dispersed in the Lake Chad region, and in other parts of the state, I don’t think all of them can be got at once. But I believe that those under the custody of Shekau, I believe a substantial number of them can be found in the Sambisa forest.”
Governor Shettima lamented the destruction and level of devastation caused by the attacks of the Boko Haram sect in the region with Borno State being the worst hit.
He said, “The Boko Haram are there in the Sambisa forest, I am not disputing that fact. The Boko Haram are scattered in almost all parts of the state. But they no longer have the strength to hold onto any territory in Nigeria.
“The Boko Haram rolled discussions worth $9Bn in the North East. Borno accounts over $5.6Bbn worth of destruction. The Boko Haram destroyed a total of 900k units of houses in Borno making 30 percent of the total stock of houses.
The Governor praised the signing of the North-East Development Commission bill by president Mohammed Buhari which he says will help give the region a development lift.
“What we witnessed in the North-East in the past 10 years equally requires one of the services of the NEDC. It is a very momentous deal, which will turn out to be a game changer in the North-East Development equation.
“It will give us a platform of having a body charged with the responsibility of harmonising, regulating all the different bodies serving the same purpose.”