Chibok Girls, 10 Years After: Matters Arising 

It has been a decade and counting, and 96 girls out of the 276 young girls kidnapped from the Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State, are still being held captive by their Boko Haram Abductors. The nightmarish trauma that these innocent girls have been subjected to, can only be imagined, while their Parents have been in unending anguish since their kidnap in 2014, some of them passing away without being reunited with their daughters. From the Jonathan to Buhari, and now, the Tinubu administration, it has been a litany of excuses, buck-passing, ethnic and religious sentiments, and yet, there doesn’t seem to be any hope or respite for the remaining 96 girls, and Leah Sharibu, one out of the 110 girls who were kidnapped from their Government Girls Secondary School, Dapchi, also in Borno State in 2018, and remains unaccounted for to date, because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. In this Discourse, Dr Sam Amadi, Dr Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, Uju Peace Okeke and Alliances for Africa discuss forced marriage, particularly from the point of view of it being declared as a crime against humanity in international law; the folly of  granting amnesty to these criminals/kidnappers/insurgents; why the hapless young girls may have been kept captive perpetually, and what the Government can do to secure their release and prevent future occurrences of these mass abductions of children (particularly girls who from the evidence available, appear to be raped and used as sex slaves by their abductors), especially as security is the primary purpose of government, and without a safe, conducive environment, it may be difficult for children to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed right to education 

Chibok: 10 Years of Failure of Justice 

Dr Sam Amadi


10 years ago, 276 school children of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, were kidnapped by a band of Boko Haram terrorists and taken to captivity. This was the most sensational story of 2014, whose notable consequence was that PDP lost political power partly on account of the weaponisation of the tragic incident by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and the international community led by the US President Barack Obama and his wife. The kidnap of the Chibok girls provoked national and international angst against the Jonathan administration for allowing such a tragic event, and for alleged pussyfooting on the rescue of the girls.

In retrospect, President Jonathan was both to be blamed and to be pitied. He should have been more forceful, in attacking those who were alleged to have played significant roles in the suspicious debacle. For one, the role played by the Borno State Government was notoriously suspicious, both in the extreme carelessness of allowing the ladies to sit for secondary school examinations in unprotected school classrooms in Chibok against security advice arising from the threats by Boko Haram terrorists, and for not doing enough to rescue them after their kidnap. There were also reports and interviews of some survivors, that the girls were kept for days at the compound of notable politicians before been taken to the Sambisa Forest. The Presidency should have spoken out loudly against the Governor of Borno State, and threatened to hold him responsible if the girls were not rescued. It could have moved troops to Borno State to ensure the immediate release of the girls. We can argue that the Federal Government did not do all it could have done to seek the release of the girls on time, before they were disappeared into unknown places.

President Jonathan was also a victim of the climate of conspiracy and distrust that had taken over the Presidential seat of power, because of the divided loyalty of some of his closest aides and party members. After the 2015 Presidential election, stories emerged of the betrayal by some of his political associates who fell for the ethnic politics of power shift to the North and undermined his government and re-election. At that time, one of the prominent members of the Federal cabinet remarked that, he sits everyday in Federal cabinet with members and sympathisers of Boko Haram. The peculiar intermingling of religion and politics in Nigeria, meant that it was difficult for some of the key political actors from the North not to show veiled embrace of Boko Haram and its ideology. Notably, President Buhari as APC Presidential candidate spoke against what he termed attack against the North, when the Federal Government moved fiercely against the terror group. It was that bad, that many Northern politicians asked that General Ihejirika, former Chief of Army Staff, should be sent to the Hague for crimes against humanity for his fierce fight against Boko Haram fighters. President Jonathan was forced by such political pressure from the North, to remove him from office.

So, the show that the First Lady put up as a remonstration against the fiddling by Borno State officials, does not qualify as a strong response to the debacles. The Presidency was struggling a little with credibility and political authority when the attack happened, and needed to tip-toe politically so as not to further estrange Northern politicians. It ended badly, because President Jonathan still failed to appease them.

Bring Back Our Girls and Deceptive Heroics

The kidnap of the Chibok girls, was a global cause celebre. Nigerian feminists and activists, under the goading of opposition politicians, formed the famous ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ (BBG). The BBG became the most popular movement, and held many protests to demand that the Federal Government secures the release of the girls. The group attacked President Jonathan fiercely for failure of leadership. Its most iconic activity was the daily vigil and peaceful protests it held at the Unity Fountain, in Abuja. Soon, the protests and vigils spread to other parts of Nigeria, and even overseas. One of the most memorable pictures of that era, was that of the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, modelling the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ placard at the White House.

Finally, President Jonathan lost the 2015 Presidential election, partly on account of the campaign against him for failure to rescue all the girls. The BBG deservedly felt a sense of triumph. President Buhari and the APC, came to power. The general perception was that, the APC and BBG worked together as political partners. The fact that the leaders of the movement, majorly Mrs Oby Ezekwesili and Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman were very close friends with Malam El-Rufai, then one of the most unrelenting and bitter critics of President Jonathan and an APC leader, gave credence to allegation of confraternity between APC and BBG. Maybe this closeness was circumstantial, and did not mean collaboration or partnership.

But, the real challenge for the integrity of the BBG leaders is that as soon as APC candidate Buhari became President, the BBG ended its actions. Of course, some members continue to wear the Bring Back Our Girls pin-ups. But, apart from that, the group closed shop. Hadiza got appointed first as Chief of Staff to Malam El Rufai, who became Governor in 2015. Later she became Managing Director of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA).

Throughout Buhari’s eight years as President, the BBG leadership did not ask for a judicial inquiry into the events that led to the kidnap of those girls. They never canvassed for strategic action to manage the trauma of those who escaped, or were rescued. Throughout that period, there were allegations of forced marriage of these hapless victims of brutal kidnap to their captors, in mock reconciliation and rehabilitation by the Government of Borno State. The BBG leadership did not raise its voice in any intense and effective manner, to ask for investigation of these allegations or take any action to protect the rights of these hapless girls in whose name many of them became famous.

This could pass, as one of the worst betrayals of the Chibok girls. How come throughout the eight years of President Buhari, there was no engagement with the Government to constitute a high-profile investigation on both the controversial abduction, and the post-abduction violation of the rights of the girls through arranged marriage?

Forced Marriage and the Stockholm Syndrome

One of the tragic outcomes of the Chibok girls’ saga, is the fact that some of the girls are reportedly married to the terrorist kidnappers who are now labelled repentant Boko Haram fighters. There are two issues that need closer examination. First, while fighting Boko Haram, the Federal and State Government developed a de- radicalisation programme which aims at getting some of the Boko Haram fighters back to normal life. Some of these fighters were declared to be repentant, and reportedly absorbed into security institutions. Already, a few of these repentant terrorists have gone back to life of terror. Recently, there was a report that a repentant terrorist absorbed into the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), cut the throat of his girlfriend and hid her body in the Army Barracks.

Why does the Government insist on absorbing so-called ‘repentant’ terrorists into sensitive institutions? Why would anyone give an easy pass to criminals and terrorists who badly violated young girls, kidnapped them and sold some of them into slavery? Why should these despicable people be easily reabsorbed into civic life, on the pretext that they are repented? What happens to criminal prosecution and the demand of restitutive and restorative justice?

The second issue here, is the lack of protection for these grossly violated girls. How can anyone accept a condition where these girls will be married away to their violators? Of course, many of these girls suffer from ‘false consciousness’. They were impressionable and manipulatable, when these dark souls kidnapped them. After 10 years of violation and manipulation, it is not unusual that ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ can set in. The girls have given birth in captivity. They have no prospect of a better life and bright future outside the captivity they are used to, both in the Sambisa Forest and the Government facility where they are reportedly denied family reunion. In their despondence, they would clutch to the only life that they now know. It is the responsibility of Government to separate them from this misery, and rehabilitate them outside the presence of the terrorists who violated them. Now, the Government is the only facilitating continuing violation, in the name of rehabilitation of terrorists. That is really awful.

Criminal Mismanagement of Criminal Justice

The absorption of these terrorists into civil life without the required due process, is a violation of the principles of criminal justice. The core principle of administration of criminal justice, is that persons should be held responsible for their criminal actions, especially when such actions amount to insurgence and military aggression against the State. Such enemy combatants, even if they are citizens, need to face prosecution when they are caught or they surrender. What should never happen, is that the State will hand over to them the bodies of those they have violated, to continue their violation. That is a criminal misadministration of justice.

Furthermore, there is a failure of justice in the matter of these girls. The Nigerian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to life. When anyone’s life is threatened or in jeopardy, the Government has a responsibility to protect such life. When the life has been cut off, it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that there is prosecution for the killing of any citizen. It is horrible and inexplicable that since 2014, Government has not seriously made efforts to secure the release of these girls. It is more distressing that the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has not instituted a judicial inquiry or even appointed an independent counsel, to investigate the circumstances under which the girls were kidnapped and remain in captivity. Moreover, there has been investigated reports of local and international NGOs accusing the Federal and State Governments of complicity in the kidnap, continued detention of about 91 of those girls and forced marriage of those rescued.

Why has the Government of Nigeria never bothered enough to institute a credible process of verifying these allegations? Why have these girls continued to be treated, as if they are thoroughly dispensable and disposable? Why? Is it because they are women, they are from the lowest socio-economic class, they are from ethnic and religious minorities? Are these girls’ mistreatment a clear statement of the lack of democratic citizenship, and evidence that some social, ethnic and religious classes in Nigeria do not count much to have the protection of the justice system?

10 years after, many of the Chibok girls are still in captivity and in forced marriage to the terrorists who abducted and violated them, with the connivance or indifference of the Nigerian State. That is a huge betrayal. But, actually, the most devastating betrayal is that of the leaders of the BBG who for the last 8 years and more, have kept quiet while the atrocity continues. They fought PDP and Jonathan. They did not fight APC and Buhari. And, they are not fighting APC and Tinubu on the ordeals of these girls. This is a big betrayal.

Dr Sam Amadi, Human Rights Advocate; Immediate Past Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC)

Lawless: Nigeria’s Legal Response to Chibok Girls’ Forced Marriages

Dr Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode


The Chibok schoolgirls, who were kidnapped by the terrorist organisation Jama’atul ahl al-sunnah li da’awati wal Jihad (Boko Haram), were taken from an improvident gathering at the Government (Girls) Secondary School Chibok on April 14, 2014. After the initial escape of 57 within 3 days of captivity, 219 girls were taken into Boko Haram’s enclave in Sambisa Forest. In 10 years, 129 girls have been recovered, with Lydia Simon with her three children on April 17, 2024, 4 days after Nigeria marked 10 years of their abduction. 90 girls remain in Boko Haram captivity. Meanwhile, the recovered Chibok schoolgirls, now serve as a stark reminder of the peril that girls and women confront in times of war and other forms of violent conflict, even those that do not involve foreign forces. Indeed, the recent report by the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF) confirms that 21 Chibok girls, some of whom were abducted at 13, returned with 34 babies; evidence enough that the Chibok girls were subjected to systematic rape and violent assault, as they remained forcefully imprisoned by their captors. 

Sexual Violence and the Conspiracy of Silence Among Nigerian Officials   


Sexual violence in this conflict with Boko Haram, demands urgent attention. Clearly, the leaders of Boko Haram saw an opportunity with the Chibok girls, to assert their dominance over “educated” women and undermine the Nigerian State. Like many armed groups in conflict, they weaponised sexual violence to instil fear and exert control. By subjecting young girls to rape, forced marriages, and early motherhood, they deliberately attacked the cherished ideals of our nation, particularly the honour of its women. Despite the evidence of blatant violence inflicted upon the girls upon their return—pregnant and bearing babies, our national response remains disappointingly muted. 

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (UN General Assembly, 1998), such acts are unequivocally classified as war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, there persists a troubling “conspiracy of silence” among Nigeria’s officials regarding the numerous atrocities, even as the Chibok girls are returned. Addressing this silence requires a critical examination of how sexual violence in war mirrors its peacetime counterpart; child marriage. Is the brutalisation of vulnerable girls fundamentally different, when it occurs outside the context of armed conflict? Can the systematic rape of young as well underage girls in forced marriages, be viewed as anything less than war crimes? These questions compel us to confront the reality and severity of sexual violence, regardless of the setting in which it occurs. The lack of outrage raises questions about why we fail to condemn such visible violence and dishonour inflicted upon these girls, their families, the community, and the nation.

In the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the practice of marrying girls off at puberty or even before, is unfortunately not uncommon. Economic factors drive this practice, as families may view it as more financially viable to marry off their daughters early, rather than bear the costs of feeding and educating them at home. Additionally, religious doctrines that emphasise chastity and family honour, lead to a perceived need to marry girls off before they reach an age where they might engage in perceived promiscuity.

Child Marriage and Related Laws 

Indeed, the same week of April 2014 that the Chibok girls were taken, 13-year-old Wasila Tasiu in Kano, poisoned her husband and three friends at their supposed marriage celebration, resulting in their deaths. Wasila was illiterate and signed her Police confession with a thumbprint. Human rights Lawyers raised concerns about her age, and suitability for prosecution. After considerable public outcry, the High Court in Gezawa agreed to grant the Prosecutor’s application for nolle prosequi—the abandonment of prosecution. Relatives of the deceased and the Defendant, particularly men, protested, advocating for Wasila to face the death penalty, rejecting the notion of forced marriage. Despite not being jailed, Wasila was mandated to live with a foster family for the rest of her childhood.

Nigeria’s laws concerning child marriage are complex, and often conflict with its domestic and international obligations. Despite the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Charter) in 2001, Nigeria’s legal framework remains unclear. The CRC contains provisions aimed at safeguarding children from various forms of harm, including physical and mental violence, economic exploitation, and lack of education. 

Similarly, the African Children’s Charter provides clear guidelines regarding child marriage, explicitly prohibiting child marriage and mandating effective action to establish 18 years as the minimum age of marriage, and require registration of all marriages in an official registry. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa also sets 18 years as the minimum marriage age for women. These instruments not only establish a minimum age for marriage, but also offer comprehensive protections against economic exploitation, sexual abuse, and harmful social and cultural practices that hinder the welfare and development of children.

Indeed, Nigeria’s Child’s Rights Act 2003, enacted amidst international pressure, is hailed as Nigeria’s most comprehensive legislation protecting children’s rights. It aims to safeguard children from various forms of abuse, including physical, mental, and emotional harm. Notably, the Act explicitly prohibits marriage or betrothal of children under 18 years old, rendering any such contracts void due to the minor’s incapacity to enter them. However, children in Nigeria still face gaps in protection under the Act. Matters of child rights fall under the residual list of the Nigerian Constitution, necessitating State-level adoption of the Act’s provisions. Unfortunately, enough States in Northern Nigeria, including those most affected by Boko Haram in the Northeast, have yet to enact or enforce the Act.

Those who reject the Child’s Rights Act argue that its provisions violate their right to practice their religion, as protected by Section 38(1) of the 1999 Constitution. Proponents of the Act on the other hand, refer to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights directive to protect children and young persons from exploitation and neglect. However, these provisions are non-justiciable, meaning they cannot be legally enforced, further complicating matters. Furthermore, certain provisions within the Constitution, such as Item 61, Part 1 of the Second Schedule, give jurisdiction over Islamic and Customary marriages to State legislatures, potentially conflicting with other constitutional rights. Also, Section 29(1) of the Constitution defines “full age” as 18 years, except for married women who are deemed to be of full age. Accordingly, a child who is married because she has exhibited signs of puberty is deemed to be of full age. This circular provision has faced criticism and attempts at removal by civil society groups, particularly in instances where underage girls are forced into marriage. My argument, in fact, is that this illusion of capacity deprives these children of most if not all of their other constitutionally guaranteed rights such as, the right to personal liberty, the right to freedom of expression, the right to assemble freely and associate with others, and the right to freedom of movement.

Senator Sani Yerima, the first Nigerian Governor to impose Sharia law in his State in 2000, ten years before he married a 13-year-old Egyptian girl, has argued that child marriage is protected under the constitutional freedom of religion, citing interpretations of Islamic law. Critics dispute this assertion, highlighting the lack of unanimity among Islamic scholars on contemporary social issues, and the potential for societies to determine their own best interests in such matters.

Forced Marriage Declared as a Crime Against Humanity 

Fortunately, the lack of consent and severe violations of autonomy inherent in child marriages, while not explicitly illegal under domestic Nigerian law, are precisely the elements that now criminalise forced marriage, whether to a child or an adult, in conflict. Cambodia is a focal point of documented trauma and suffering inflicted on its population by the forced marriages imposed by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. Forced marriages were also prevalent during the conflicts in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. So, it is instructive that the Appeals chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) delivering its first judgement on the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) on 22 February, 2008, set a historic precedent by recognising forced marriage as a crime against humanity in international criminal law. This ruling provided the first comprehensive definition of forced marriage, describing it as a situation where the perpetrator, through force, threat, or coercion, compels a person to serve as a conjugal partner, resulting in severe physical, mental, or psychological harm to the victim.

This legal precedent highlights the serious nature of forced marriages, and their recognition as prosecutable offences under international law. It emphasises the importance of legal frameworks in acknowledging and addressing the significant harm caused by forced marriages, particularly in regions affected by conflict like Nigeria. In such countries where women are historically marginalised and viewed as subordinate, the term “marriage” may not always imply consent. It is crucial not to assume that the label of “marriage” signifies the absence of force, rape, violence, or enslavement.

Forcing marriages has assumed a significant role, as a great validator in the Boko Haram insurgency. Whether seeking validation for their actions externally or internally for example, Boko Haram insists that the Chibok girls were not subjected to rape. However, the fact remains that the perpetrators of violence being married beforehand does not negate the violence inflicted upon the victims, or alleviate the dishonour and shame they experience. In fact, the criminalisation of forced marriage in international law is because it is forced and carries a multitude of derogatory labels such as, “bush wife” “rebel” and “traitor” leaving a lasting imprint on the victims.  As a result, some of the Chibok girls even refused offers of freedom, which has been attributed to Stockholm Syndrome. Equally plausible though, is the belief that captivity might be preferable to the reputational attacks they could face upon returning to their communities, with, the fear of societal judgement outweighing the desire for freedom.

The designation of being a “wife” in a forced marriage, brings about a unique form of psychological suffering. Successfully prosecuting forced marriages as crimes against humanity under international law, could potentially shed light on all marriages that involve coercion in the future. However, navigating the legal complexities of such prosecutions, similar to the challenges faced in addressing the illegality of child marriages under national laws, is likely to be intricate. 

The most significant hurdle, lies in the cycle of force and consent that disempowers the victims of these crimes. Individuals like Lydia Simon or the remaining 21 Chibok girls who gave birth to 34 children were forcefully abducted, married off, and subjected to bearing children, become incapacitated by the coercion imposed upon them. Similarly, in the case of Wasila Tasiu, consent to marry and bear children was not a matter of free will, but of capacity. In both scenarios, those tasked with defining consent, often serve as gatekeepers of force in such situations. 


Indeed, that is why it is crucial to understand why crimes such as statutory rape are classified as such by law. The essence of this classification lies in the recognition that, individuals without the capacity to provide valid consent from a range of factors that render them powerless in the face of exploitation, require our protection. When we fail to safeguard their rights, victims are left to  endure immense suffering. 

Therefore, until we break the wall of silence and begin to speak about the unspeakable by openly addressing these atrocities, seeking justice will remain a daunting task for those involved. It is crucial that we begin to confront the egregious realities, that render victims of crimes that require capacity and or informed consent powerless. Only then,  can we provide a platform for victims to seek and attain justice.

Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, PhD, Murtala Muhammed Foundation

Chibok Girls: Can a Government Work Against the  People it Seeks to Protect?

Uju Peace Okeke

It was Nelson Mandela who said that, ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. This has been proven to be true globally. Education has been linked to many good things including the production of good citizens, empowerment, crime reduction, economic growth, among others. Nigeria, seemingly, taking a cue from the statement, overcame the unenforceability of the constitutional right to education, by enacting the Child’s Rights Act (CRA) in 2003. The CRA guarantees Nigerian children the right to basic education which it made free, compulsory and universal. As if to prove its seriousness with the implementation of right to education, she enacted the Universal Basic Education Act in 2004, reiterating the complete, cost-free and compulsoriness of basic education. It imposed on the parents and guardians, the duty of ensuring attendance of schools by their children and wards. It further made its violation, an offence, punishable variously with at the least reprimand, community service and at the worst, N10,000 fine and 3 months imprisonment. Finally, Nigeria arrived, as she joined upwardly mobile nations in embracing international agreements particularly goal 4 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the later, goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both on education.

Guaranteeing children right to education, presupposes that at the least, the enabling environment that would ensure the enjoyment of the right would have been put in place by government, that imposed on itself the duty of providing the guaranteed basic education. The enabling environment would naturally include good infrastructure that is fit for the purpose, in the form of environmentally friendly and physically accessible classrooms with furniture, recreation venue and conveniences. Also necessary, is the provision of quality teachers that would not teach the students nonsense, good libraries because without books, being in school will amount to nothing and most importantly, security, as nobody would enjoy anything if danger is lurking by the corner.


Ordinarily, security was the least of anyone’s concern because the Constitution, the grundnorm already stated in Section 14(2)(b) that security and welfare of the people, is the primary purpose of Government. This implies that every other purpose is secondary, and depends on this primary purpose for their attainment. In other words, in the absence of the primary purpose, other purposes are nonsense. This is in line with a popular doctrine in law, enunciated in the case of UAC v Mcfoy, that ‘one cannot put something on nothing, because it will lack the legs to stand’. Security being a primary purpose is logical, because in the coexistence of different people, they surrender the choice of self-help in resolving issues to a government, which in turn, protects them from abuse, violence, internal and external aggression. It follows that security benefits both the government and the governed, as necessary parties to the social contract. For the governed, guaranteed rights can only be enjoyed in a safe environment, and for the government, it is necessary for its functioning, as its powers could be usurped where insecurity thrives. Again, when the people and their properties are destroyed, who will be governed? This makes security a serious matter deserving of continued, utmost and urgent attention.

In view of the foregoing, security in institutions of learning was assured. Though there were spates of insecurity, here and there, nobody suspected it would happen in school, because any Nigerian Government clearly worth its salt, had education-enabling environment covered. Without notice, bam! 276 girls were kidnapped from an educational institution, worse still, one named after Federal Government. War of blames began, Federal blamed State and vice versa. Political influencers described it as political conspiracy. School authority got its fair share, in the blame party. The Minister for Education and even the examination organisers, were not spared. In the confusion of everyone looking for a scape goat, even the Parents of the girls did not escape the outburst which was most unfortunate, because they were almost overburdened with the psychological and other burden related to the children loss. I am sure they blamed themselves for being good and law abiding citizens, who ensured that their children and wards attended schools. With the benefit of hindsight, most, if not all, would have resorted to disobeying that law and damning the consequences. But, like an Igbo adage has it, anaghi aga unyaa aga (one cannot return to yesterday).

In the midst of the back and forth, one thing was clear – the Nigerian Government failed in its constitutionally acclaimed primary purpose. Boko Haram insurgents, boldly accepted responsibility. It was important information, but, the salient point was how to make them return the girls safely to their parents. Days, months and years passed. News trickled, of how some of the girls escaped from the prison, others were rescued and others were released. While there were claims and denials of whether ransom was paid, or the release resulted from simple but ‘hard’ negotiations. Nigerians were happy with the development. Unfortunately, many of the girls returned as women, changing their lives forever, without their consent, and as much as an opportunity to prepare for it. As sad as that was, and imagined the trauma they passed through, most Nigerians were happy to have them back alive.

The Girls that are Still in Captivity 

The happiness is short-lived, because many of them are yet to return. In the twinkling of an eye, it is a decade after the unfortunate incident. While it is a sad reminder, it is depressing to note that some of these girls are still in the hands of their abductors. This is worrisome, because a child of ten years is already handling some chores, in the spirit of evolving capacity of the child recognised under the CRA. Yet, some abducted girls are imprisoned somewhere without trial for committing no offence, but enjoying the right of education guaranteed by the Constitution. 

One of the questions agitating the minds of Nigerians, is if the best option of Government is paying ransom or negotiating for the release of the girls, what is stopping it from employing the same method to secure the release of the remaining 91 or 96 girls? Is their continued captivity deliberate? If good intentions flow from actions, bad intention must also flow from inactions. The inaction of Government in their release impacts on their dignity, because it seems Government is indirectly saying that their lives do not matter. In fact, it is tantamount to Government working against the people it seeks to protect. Government must therefore, be blameworthy for these girls whose guaranteed right to life is on the threshold.

Malcolm X said that ‘without education, you are not going anywhere in this world’, these girls tried to get education and now the world is looking for them. The Government has not just disappointed the missing Chibok girls and their Parents, but has failed Nigerians, thereby sending a wrong signal that first it cannot protect Nigerians; therefore, people should resort to self-help and secondly, that there is no enabling environment for the exercise of right to education.


Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the immediate past Vice President once said: ‘Chinua Achebe repeatedly reminded us of the Igbo saying that, a man who cannot tell where the rain began to beat him, cannot know where he dried his body. If we lose the past, we will inevitably lose the opportunity to make the best of the present and the future’. It behooves the Government to retrace its steps by finding the missing Chibok girls, and ensuring safe schools for Nigerian children. If this Government whose mantra is ‘Renewed Hope’ fails to do the needful, which is restoring hope to the populace, it would have itself to blame for the negative outcome in denying Nigerians the passport for the future in line with Malcolm X’s statement that ‘education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today’.

Uju Peace Okeke, Lecturer, University of Nigeria Law Faculty, Enugu Campus

Chibok Girls Kidnapping: A Decade in Captivity

Alliances for Africa

April 14, 2014, marked a tragic night in Nigeria’s history, when over 200 innocent schoolgirls were violently abducted from their dormitories in Chibok. A decade later, the pain and anguish of that night still lingers, with 96 of these girls remaining in captivity. This enduring crisis prompts critical questions about the Government’s response and its responsibility to safeguard its citizens, especially vulnerable schoolchildren, women and girls, in and out of insurgency-affected areas.

Has the Government Disappointed?

Despite initial promises of swift action; heightened bureaucratic challenges, intelligence failures, and accusations of negligence are strong indicators of a system failure.  Reports revealed that despite advance warnings, the Nigerian military failed to act, stressing systemic failures in prioritising security and safeguarding citizens. This prolonged captivity has subjected the abducted girls to unimaginable suffering, including physical and psychological abuse, sexual violence, risks of infections, forced marriage, and forced labour at the hands of their captors. What do we say of the enduring anguish of the girls’ families, who are suspended in a perpetual state of uncertainty.  What a tragedy!

Ten years after, the abduction of the Chibok girls lays bare the vulnerability of schoolchildren, especially girls, in and out of insurgency-affected regions, where education seems to become a dangerous pursuit. Many parents, fearing further attacks, withdrew their children from school, undermining Nigeria’s efforts to addressing poverty and empower its citizens through education.

The trauma inflicted on survivors extends beyond physical captivity, leading to stigmatisation and secondary abuse, further questioning societal trust and resilience.


Sadly, a decade after the  Kidnap of Chibok girls by Boko Haram insurgents, the situation has worsened, as kidnapping incidents escalate not only in the Northeast, but across Nigeria. Statistics reveal a grim reality: since 2014, more than 1,600 children have been abducted or kidnapped across Northern Nigeria. Banditry and insurgent activities continue to terrorise communities, with reports indicating a surge in abductions during February and March 2024 alone, where over 200 children were kidnapped from schools in Kaduna and Sokoto States. This alarming trend requires the urgent need for comprehensive security measures and effective governance, to protect the nation’s youth especially women and girls. How much more can education cost?

Crime Against Humanity 

Questions about the Government’s accountability persist, as more children fall victim to abduction and violence. Despite some progress in securing the release of abducted individuals through negotiations, the failure to implement sustainable measures to ensure a secure learning environment remains evident. The Government’s adoption of the National Policy on Safety, Security, and Violence-Free Schools is commendable, but effective implementation and monitoring are essential.

 The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in its statement on 14th May, 2014 considers that this large-scale abduction from an educational institutions for enslavement, constitutes a direct violation of Articles 5, 6 and 10 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and may qualify as a crime against humanity.

It further stated that the Committee will closely follow the situation of the abducted girls, and the measures taken by the Nigerian authorities to ensure their release, punish the perpetrators and provide effective remedies to the victims, as well as to prevent similar violations in the future, and ensure the participation of women in the resolution of the current crisis.

Human Rights Watch highlights the failure of the Nigerian Government to protect civilians, particularly in areas affected by insurgency and violence. Save the Children’s statistics further emphasise the severity of the situation, revealing the growing spate of kidnappings across Nigeria.

Ten years after, the world watches and are keeping tabs on the Nigerian Governments’ response to issues of security around women and girls, especially on how we manage the Chibok issue.

Advice to the Authorities

•We therefore, urge the government to strategise and ensure the return of the rest of the Chibok girls and others that are in captivity, as well as put in place measures to forestall further occurrences.

•Put monitoring measures to ensure an effective implementation of existing policies, such as the National Policy on Safety, Security, and Violence-Free Schools.

•Transparency, robust accountability mechanisms, and collaboration with international partners are necessary, to prevent future tragedies and restore trust.

•The Government should prioritise the protection of vulnerable populations, address the root causes of insurgency and violence, to create a safer environment for all its citizens especially

 •Every girl has the right to quality education and the denial is a gross abuse on her human right, and this must be addressed urgently.

•One incident was more than enough to teach us lessons.

Alliances for Africa, Human Rights Organisation, Owerri, Imo State

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