We cannot afford to give up on the girls still in captivity. The authorities must do more and bring them, and others in similar circumstances, home

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the violent abduction of 276 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram insurgents. While 57 of the girls escaped from their captors in the following days, 16 were later rescued and 107 have at different times been released through negotiations. With 96 of the girls still unaccounted for, the federal government is constantly reminded of its obligation to their traumatised parents and the larger society. Sadly, the fact that thousands of students (mostly female) have since been abducted in several other attacks on schools seems to have normalised this most heinous crime.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Chibok abductions that reverberated across the world a decade ago, concerns by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) over growing attacks on schoolchildren in Nigeria should be taken seriously. On a day such as this, critical stakeholders must understand what incessant attacks on innocent school children portend for the future of our country. In recent years, these repeated attacks have created fear in many vulnerable students and their parents, especially in some sections of the country, and is affecting the attitude to education. This bodes ill for the country. When a school is under attack and students become targets, according to Manuel Fotaine, a senior UNICEF official, “not only are their lives shattered, but the future of the nation is also stolen.” 

When the mass abduction occurred on 14th April 2014, there was global outrage with a series of protests under the hashtag, Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) launched in Abuja before spreading to other cities. Demand for the rescue of the girls resonated in a manner never seen before. World leaders, first ladies, human rights activists, renowned journalists, international organisations, and the ordinary people, joined the global advocacy for their rescue. “We cannot stand by and see schools shut down, girls cut off from their education and parents in fear of their daughters’ lives,” said former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, then United Nations Special Envoy on Education at the launch of the Safe Schools Initiative in Abuja. Even President Bola Tinubu, then an opposition politician and All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, carried a BBOG placard for the social media campaign in aid of the Chibok girls.

Now that he is president, Tinubu must be reminded that giving up on the remaining Chibok girls and hundreds of others in captivity cannot be an option for any self-respecting society. In a vibrant country such as ours, the issue of citizens in distress should always be on the front burner of public discourse. Nigerians also need the assurance that the federal government has the capacity to defend them as they go about their lawful pursuits within the country.  

In a democracy, freedom remains the most fundamental right. That freedom is diminished for as long as there is a citizen held in captivity. Besides, the value of every life is the ultimate measure of a nation’s sovereign integrity and democratic credentials. The global solidarity demonstrated in the wake of the abductions of Chibok girls 10 years ago was ample evidence of our shared humanity. That explains why we cannot as a country afford to give up on the remaining Chibok girls. Today is therefore another reminder that the authorities must find solution to kidnappings for ransom that has made the country unsafe for many people.

For sure, the political landscape of the country has changed since the Chibok abductions. But that is cold comfort for the parents of the girls who continue to keep hope alive that their children would be rescued from wherever they are and be brought back home alive. That the Chibok girls have been away for such a long time is not an excuse to abandon them. The authorities must locate their whereabouts and rescue them. And they must work to rescue several other Nigerians that are held captive by insurgents, bandits and other criminal cartels.

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