Headline10 YEARS AFTER CHIBOK: Anxiety as Terrorists Seize Over 500 School Kids,...

10 YEARS AFTER CHIBOK: Anxiety as Terrorists Seize Over 500 School Kids, Women

GTBCO FOOD DRINL

March 24, (THEWILL)- This is definitely not the best of times for schoolchildren in the North as well as their parents and guardians as the general insecurity in the region has not abated a bit almost 10 years after the Chibok girls’ abduction.

THEWILL recalls that 276 female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were kidnapped by Boko Haram on the night of April 14, 2014, in what went down in history as the first mass abduction in the history of Nigeria.

Sadly, about 98 of the abducted Chibok girls remain in captivity almost 10 years after the ugly and embarrassing incident as a 2013 report by Save the Children International put the number of school children abducted since 2014 at over 1,680.

Lamenting the upsurge in the attacks on school children in the 2023 report, Save the Children noted that the attacks on schools have been continuing out of the spotlight and highlights the violence that schoolchildren and teachers face across Nigeria.

“In addition to the abductions, over 180 schoolchildren were killed and nearly 90 injured in 70 attacks between April 2014 and December 2022, with an estimated 60 school staff kidnapped and 14 killed.

”Twenty-five school buildings were reportedly destroyed during that period,” the international non-governmental organisation stated, adding that the majority of these attacks took place in the North-West with 49 attacks and North-Central with 11 attacks.

“These attacks have long-lasting consequences for communities and for children’s access to education, often leading to the mass withdrawal of children from school and school closures. In Katsina State in the north-western part of the country, nearly 100 schools remain closed due to insecurity, affecting the education of over 30,000 children.”

Now, dare-devil bandits and terrorists are holding well over 500 schoolchildren and women in captivity from recent abductions across the North at a time their counterparts in other parts of the country are pursuing their educational development and going about their normal daily lives.

The recent upsurge in abductions especially in Kaduna, Sokoto and Borno States, targeting school children and women, has all the signatures of Boko Haram, especially with the outrageous ransom being demanded by the bandits as condition for the release of the school kids and women.

To date, over five mass abductions of schoolchildren have taken place in Kaduna State with heavy sums of money paid to the bandits as ransom despite heavy military and security presence in the state.

A fortnight ago, the state entered the inglorious record books as the most dangerous state for schoolchildren and women in the country now as dare-devil bandits stormed the LEA Primary School and the Government Secondary School, Kuriga, Chikun Local Government Area, making away with 276 school children and staff in yet another mass abduction.

Just a week before the Kaduna attack, Boko Haram had kidnapped over 200 women and children from an Internally Displaced Peoples’ camp in Borno State, while some schoolchildren were kidnapped in Sokoto State, just about the same time.

All these are coming despite all the efforts of the security forces to dislodge the bandits from their various hideouts in the North-East, North-West and North-Central geo-political zones.

BANDITS TALKING TOUGH

The bandits have placed a whopping N1 billion ransom for the release of the Kaduna schoolchildren as they threatened to kill them after 20 days if their demands are not met.

Confirming the callous demand of the terrorists, spokesman of the families of the abducted children, Jubril Aminu, said: “They made a total of a 1 billion (naira) ransom demand for all the pupils and staff of the school.

“They gave an ultimatum to pay the ransom within 20 days, effective from the date of the kidnap. They said they will kill all the students and the staff if the ransom demand is not met.”

FG VOWS NOT TO PAY A DIME

While the Kaduna State Government appears to be confused and overwhelmed by the upsurge in abductions in the state and the outrageous ransom being demanded as conditions for the release of those kidnapped, the Federal Government is talking tough, saying it won’t pay a dime for the release of the abducted children.

President Bola Tinubu, while reacting to the recent abductions in Kaduna, ordered the military to go after the bandits and set the hostages free, even as he vowed not to pay a dime as ransom.

MILITARY VOWS TO RESCUE ABDUCTED CHILDREN

The military has since swung into action as it confirmed locating the hideouts of the bandits who, according to military sources, are now using their hostages as human shield in what the military high command described as ”a very difficult terrain.”

The Director of Defence Media Operations, Major-General Edward Buba, while briefing journalists in Abuja, said the military is committed to rescuing all kidnapped victims unhurt, even as the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, confirmed the directive given by President Tinubu to the military to go after the bandits and rescue the hostages.

INTRIGUES OVER BORNO ABDUCTION

The Borno abductions are however surrounded by intrigues and mistrust as some women, teenagers and children from an IDP camp were said to have been kidnapped after they went to the outskirts of Ngala, a town in the central part of Borno State near the Cameroon border, in search of firewood.

Sources in Borno State told THEWILL that the abduction took place about three weeks ago, but it was not immediately reported in Maiduguri, the capital, due to poor communication facility in the area.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordination office has condemned the abduction, calling on Boko Haram to free the victims.

“The United Nations strongly condemns the reported abduction of internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of them women, boys and girls in the Ngala Local Government Area of Borno State,” UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, Mohammed Fall, said in a statement a fortnight ago..

He said the abduction occurred while the IDPs reportedly ventured beyond the safety of the trenches around Ngala town.

He said the insurgents released an unspecified number of older persons and children under 10 years. He called on the abductors to grant the IDPs unconditional release without harm.

HUNGER PUSHING IDPs INTO TERRORISTS’ CAMPS

Recently, hundreds of residents of Mafa and Dikwa town have protested and raised serious concerns over hunger and their inability to feed their families, given the recent nationwide hike in the prices of commodities.

However, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, said his administration cannot do more, regarding the distribution of food items to internally displaced persons and vulnerable residents threatening to join the terrorists in the forests.

Zulum stated this in Mafa while addressing a group of internally displaced persons who have protested, threatening to go to the bush where Boko Haram terrorists camped as a result of hunger.

Zulum expressed displeasure on the action by some people living in the IDP camp, saying those who intend to go back should understand that there would be no second chance.

He said; ”I received a report that some IDPs in Dikwa have protested that they will return to the bush because we could not provide food to them. This afternoon, others in Mafa have also done the same.”

Zulum said In the last couple of years, he has consistently provided food to internally displaced and vulnerable people, saying “Believe me, what we are doing is even beyond our capacity.”

EXAGGERATED FIGURES

Governor Zulum however faulted what he described as exaggerated figures used in the report of the abducted IDPs in Gamboru Ngala, urging those reporting the incident to be careful.

“As the Chief Security Officer of the state, I am yet to receive any official figure on the abduction in Gamborun Ngala. So we must be very careful of making unverifiable predictions.

“What you heard a few days ago in Gamboru Ngala is about recruitment. They lost their members and their numbers have depleted and they are now looking for new recruits and women.”

According to the governor, “We are yet to ascertain the correct number of the abducted victims. Some may have decided to go voluntarily. And that’s what I am afraid of. If people decide to go to the bush voluntarily, you cannot do anything to stop them. That has been my fear since.

“Reliably, I was informed that some of the women were returning to the bush willingly. Even in Mafa, I went a few days ago and I saw a group of 200 women who said they wanted to go to the bush.

“They said they were in the camp and they were not getting anything. We went and calmed them. This also underscores the fact that there is hunger in the IDP camps. We therefore need your support, especially at the local government levels where we have resettled our people.

“We need to provide them with durable and sustainable livelihood. We need to move away from the immediate solutions to medium and long time durable solutions. Because, once we don’t take care of the IDPs, we will be at risk of them returning to the fighters in the forest.

“We have heard situations where they were called from the bush and mocked for suffering. Even when their colleagues who surrendered asked them to come out they always asked what the government had done for them.”

DISMISSING ABDUCTION NARRATIVE

THEWILL was reliably informed that no fewer than 100,000 IDPs are currently living in the ISSI camp in Ngala, which makes it the largest internally displaced displaced persons camp in the state and that nine out of the 102 IDPs reportedly abducted have since returned to their homes.

However, the Borno State Government has dismissed the abduction narrative, saying the IDPs only ”lost their way back home from the wilderness.”

“In fact, we don’t even believe that they were abducted,” the Director-General, Borno State Emergency Agency, Dr Barkindo Mohammed Saidu, who led the state government fact-finding team to Ngala immediately after the reported abduction, told journalists in Maiduguri on Friday, March 8.

“We believe they only lost their way back home, not abducted, because if they were abducted, the abductors would have, by now, called for ransom; but nobody has called anybody for any ransom yet.”

Speaking to THEWILL, the Borno SEMA chief said; “We have been reliably informed that nine out of the ‘missing IDPs traced their way back to the camp last Friday (penultimate), ” adding, “Officials at Ngala have been instructed to mount an intensive and extensive vigilance to inform us about any trickling number returning.

“You would have observed that the state government restrained all along from quoting any number because we know the IDPs very well. We are the ones managing their affairs; they are economical with the truth.

“We don’t believe the IDPs in this abduction narrative and the number of those they said were abducted; the IDPs are not trustworthy.

“There is no trust between them (IDPs) and government and between them and NGOs; there is even no trust among themselves; if it is about food and other essential commodities distribution, or they want to raise public sympathy for them among the public, they exaggerate numbers. If it is about anything they don’t want, like immunisation, they reduce numbers.

“This is why we don’t even believe the abduction story and the numbers being quoted.”

PARENTS LIVE IN ANGUISH

Last year, the Acting Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, while commenting on the fate of the remaining Chibok girls still in captivity, after nine years, said: “Parents of the 98 Chibok schoolgirls who are still being held by Boko Haram — as well as other children abducted by unknown gunmen — are living in anguish, knowing that their children are in the hands of ruthless individuals who subject their loved ones to chilling brutalities.”

Sanusi maintained that “It is beyond time that the Nigerian authorities took meaningful action to counter armed groups like Boko Haram,” adding, ”Nigeria has an obligation to implement safeguards to protect all children and the lack of accountability for these callous crimes is fuelling impunity.”

The Amnesty chief therefore advised that ”The missing Chibok schoolgirls should be returned to their families and all those responsible for committing grave violations must face justice.”

DHQ RELEASES NEW TERROR LIST

Last Friday, the Director, Defence Media Operations, Defence Headquarters, Maj-Gen. Edward Buba, released a fresh list of 97 persons wanted for their alleged involvement in terrorist activities across the country.

Included in the list covering the North-East, North-West, North-Central and South-East, as confirmed to a leading national newspaper, is the factional leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB), Simon Ekpa.

THEWILL recalls that in November 2022, the military had declared about 19 bandit leaders wanted, calling on Nigerians to volunteer information that could lead to their arrest, with a N5 million bounty placed on each of them.

In the new list, the North-West led with 43 wanted persons and they include Alhaji Shingi; Malindi Yakubu; Boka; Dogo Gide; Halilu Sububu; Ado Aliero ; Bello Turji; Dan Bokkolo; Labi Yadi ; Nagala; Saidu Idris; Kachalla Rugga and Sani Gurgu.

Thirty-three persons were declared wanted from the North-East, which is notorious for Boko Haram and ISWAP terror activities. They include Abu Zaida; Modu Sulum; Baba Data; Ahmad; Sani Teacher; Baa Sadiq; Abdul Saad; Kaka Abi; Mohammad Khalifa; Umar Tella; Abu Mutahid; Mallam Mohammad; Mallam Tahiru Baga; Uzaiya and Ali Ngule .

From the South-East and North-Central , a total of 21 persons were declared wanted for terrorism and they include Simon Ekpa; Chika Edoziem; Egede; Zuma ; ThankGod; Gentle; Flavour ; Mathew; David Ndubuisi; High Chief Williams Agbor; Ebuka Nwaka; Friday Ojimka; Obiemesi Chukwudi, aka Dan Chuk; David Ezekwem Chidiebube and Amobi Chinonso Okafor, aka Temple.

A week earlier, the Federal Government had released a list of 15 persons and Bureau De Change operators allegedly involved in terrorism financing. The list, which has become controversial since its release and has been faulted by popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, is made up of Kaduna-based publisher of Desert Herald and an ally of Gumi, Tukur Mamu; eight others and six BDCs and companies.

WAY FORWARD

A suggestion by Temitope Olodo, a Preventive Terrorism Consultant and President of Africa Security Forum based in the United Kingdom, in a note to THEWILL on the use of control towers as warning signals in vulnerable communities to deter terror attacks as we have seen in communities in Plateau State, could also be adopted in most communities in the North.

”Plateau State, with its scenic landscapes and diverse cultures, has unfortunately witnessed persistent security challenges in the form of attacks by unknown militants in its remote communities.

In response to the escalating threat, the establishment of warning sirens and watch towers emerged as a strategic initiative aimed at enhancing security, providing timely alerts and fostering a sense of protection among vulnerable populations,” Olodo said.

According to him, sporadic attacks by unknown militants have left remote communities in Plateau State grappling with fear and uncertainty. These communities, often situated in challenging terrains, lack the necessary infrastructure to promptly respond to security threats.

” The establishment of warning sirens and watch towers represents a proactive measure to address these vulnerabilities and mitigate the impact of potential attacks.”

On his part, the Country Director, Save the Children Nigeria, Famari Barro, urged the Federal Government to not only do more to prevent attacks and violence against children but also intensify the support mechanism for children and their families in the aftermath.

About the Author

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Olaolu OLUSINA is the Editor, THEWILL Newspaper.

Recent Posts

I am Ladi Dapson, a general writer with thewill. I cover Borno and Yobe states respectively.

I based Maiduguri, Borno State Capital.

I can be reached via ladi4media@gmail.com.

Very high and kind regards!

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