- The remaining Chibok girls and other hostages with Boko Haram deserve total emancipation
As expected, parents of abducted Chibok girls and many of the others released to the Buhari government in 2016 marked the fourth year of continued captivity of 110 of the girls on April 14. Muslim and Christian supporters in many Nigerian cities joined the parents to call on the Federal Government to step up activities to ensure the release of the children. Like most Nigerians, The Nation joins the families of the girls kept incommunicado for the past four years to demand their immediate release.
Nothing has captured the gravity of the parents’ pain more than the observation of HannatuDaudu, mother of Saratu, an abductee still in captivity: “We need to know if they are alive or dead. If they are alive, let them come back to us. If they are dead, let us know so we can at least pray for them and then overcome this grief. It is better to know if our daughters are dead than being left in suspense.”
Leaving over 220 parents to live each day in the last four years in suspense must have removed all meaning from their lives. Such situation is utterly dispiriting and needs immediate rectification. Even four years after the abduction, the over 80 girls reportedly killed in controversial cross-fire between the terrorists and security forces have not been given any verifiable closure.
So far, the audit of Nigeria’s saddest tragedy since the civil war suggests that about 50 percent of the girls abducted four years back are still in captivity. In fairness, the Buhari government has made significant progress on two separate negotiations assisted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with the terrorists for release of a total of 103 Chibok girls. Had Buhari’s predecessor made 50 percent of such effort, the pain of Chibok girls, their parents, and the nation would have been much less than what it is today.
Consistently, President Muhammadu Buhari’s words on this matter have been warm and encouraging: “We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by the insurgents.” He added in 2017, “We will continue to persist, and the parents should please not give up.”
Although such good words from the president are soothing, the need for those words to be given adequate boost of action becomes more urgent day by day. It is crucial for the government to do everything necessary to bring smiles to the faces of the girls and their parents, as well as to Leah Sharibu, the only girl out of over 100 abducted early this year who is yet to be released by the second faction of Boko Haram, for failing to convert to Islam.
We urge President Buhari to use his international goodwill to attract additional assistance on the matter. Given the evidence of past efforts negotiated by the ICRC, we also appeal to the international community to expand and intensify support to the government on efforts to ensure the return of all abducted citizens to their homes. Police and other security forces should not deny #BringBackOurGirls advocates freedom to express their desire that all kidnapped citizens are liberated from Boko Haram. This patriotic group has been playing positive role to keep the release of the abducted girls on the government’s agenda in the past four years. There is no reason to frustrate members of such organisation.
With President Buhari’s unsolicited offer of amnesty to Boko Haram still on the table, leaders of both factions ought to take to the path of peace by deradicalising their members and returning to normal life. It is time for Boko Haram insurgents to renounce terrorism and join other citizens in building a peaceful and progressive Nigeria.
In the meantime, the ball of bringing the remaining Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu back to freedom lies in the court of the government.