President Muhammadu Buhari said saturday that he had not forgotten the remaining 113 schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno State still held by Boko Haram insurgents. Buhari made the declaration through the senator for Borno South senatorial district, Senator Mohammed Ndume, at a gathering in Chibok. The president regretted the circumstances under which the girls were abducted, but stressed that he had never felt comfortable with them in captivity.
Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, on the night of April 14, 2014 in controversial circumstances that have been blamed on the military authorities protecting the Boko Haram-ravaged state. The girls were preparing to write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination. Fifty-seven of the abducted girls escaped, three were later found, while 103 were released under allegedly negotiated arrangements. Nineteen parents of the victims are said to have died so far. One hundred and thirteen of the schoolgirls are still held by Boko Haram in unknown locations.
Addressing the people of Chibok on behalf of Buhari, Ndume said, “I’m here to visit my constituency to convey a message from President Muhammadu Buhari, who sent me to tell you of his administration’s determination to end the insurgency threatening peaceful co-existence.
“The president assures you that the abducted Chibok girls still being held by Boko Haram are still on his mind. There were some lapses in the first phase of negotiation that led to the release of the other girls. The president restates his commitment to ensure release of the remaining girls still in captivity.
“The president equally directed me to tell you that he had wished to visit Chibok and see things for himself, but because of his tight schedule, he is unable to do so. But he said his mind is always with you, he feels your pains and cries over the inability to secure the release of your daughters.”
Ndume said Buhari also implored the community to engage in massive commercial agriculture to boost their incomes.
In an interview with journalists, the chairman of the Abducted Chibok Girls Parents’ Movement for Rescue, Malam Yakubu Nkeki, expressed delight at the president’s assurance to secure the freedom of the remaining kidnapped girls. Nkeki thanked the president for his concern, determination, and display of solidarity with the victims’ families. He assured the president of the support and cooperation of the parents of the abducted girls and the entire community in the on-going counter-insurgency operations.
The abduction by the militant Islamist group had sparked one of the biggest global social media campaigns, with tweeters using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Fifty-seven of the schoolgirls managed to escape over the next few months of their kidnap. In May 2016, one of the missing girls, Amina Ali, was found. She claimed that the remaining girls were alive and six had died. A second girl was discovered later in the week, but there were doubts about her identity. Twenty-one more girls were freed by Boko Haram in October 2016, while another was rescued the next month. Another girl was found in January this year, and 82 more girls were freed in May.
Last week, the American business-focused international daily newspaper, Wall Street Journal, reported that 13 of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls in captivity had died in the insurgents’ custody due to hunger, sickness, and snake bites. “Of the remaining 113, at least 13 have died, officials say. Some were felled by malaria, hunger or a snake bite,” the WSJ report said. “The majority died in airstrikes. Among those forcibly married to fighters, at least two died in childbirth.”