500 days after: Chibok parents seek reunion with daughters

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As today marks exactly 500 days since 219 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in Chibok, Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, President Muhammadu Buhari may be invited to visit the town to sympathise with the girls’ parents as part of the BringBackOurGirls’ Global Week of Action, Professor Hauwa Abdu Biu said yesterday.
Professor Biu, spokesperson of a group, BAOBAB For Women’s Human Rights, was in Chibok on April 14, this year, to sympathise with the abducted schoolgirls’ parents. She said President Muhammadu Buhari and Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima may be invited to Chibok town to sympathise with the surviving parents of the girls.
She said the trip would come up at the end of the Global Week of Action of the campaign.
“Members of the BringBackOurGirls in Maiduguri had the opportunity to visit Chibok when it was exactly one year after the schoolgirls were abducted. So for us to have this 500 days commemorated, we have invited other members to find time to visit Chibok; we expect people not only from Maiduguri but from other parts of Nigeria including President Buhari if possible,” Prof. Biu said.
Daily Trust reports that the 219 schoolgirls were abducted from their campus while writing their final year examination on April 14, 2011 and today marks exactly 500 days since they were taken away and deprived of their homes.
There is apprehension in various quarters that many of the girls may have died of natural causes or killed by their captors. Apart from them, there are hundreds of other people, including old men and women as well as children that have been abducted from various communities especially in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states and have remained missing.
The assumption is that most of the captives were held in places that were taken over by the Boko Haram and where they controlled movement, such as remote areas of Bama, Gwoza, Sambisa Forest and in various cells along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon and Chad and other locations such as Alagarno in the southern part of the state.
However, with renewed collaboration between Nigeria and its neighbours, the expectation is that the team-up will see to the rescue of hundreds of captives, including the Chibok girls.
A human rights activist, Fatima Kalo Yusuf, said she was not happy that this has not been the case long ago. “Of course, we have no doubt that almost all the towns and villages taken over by Boko Haram have been liberated, but where are our girls?” she asked. “I don’t want to be pessimistic but with the liberation of all the territories, especially Bama and Gwoza, I have doubts if the Chibok girls will be found at all.”
Most of the parents of the Chibok girls who Daily Trust spoke to did not hide their disappointment over what they described as the nonchalant attitude of the federal government to the issue.
One of them, Ayuba Aisami, said the situation has been used for political gains. “If I tell you I have hope of seeing my daughter again, I’m lying,” he said. “We have been betrayed for long because right from the onset, there was no political will to rescue our daughters. We know that they were taken to Sambisa Forest, which is not on the moon but right here in Borno State.”
Another parent, James Mbalala, however, said he was still hopeful of seeing his daughter. “The good lord will not allow them to disappear without a trace but there is no way we can dismiss the fact that even if they are found at the end of the day, their lives will never be the same again,” he said.
Esther Sam, who said her daughter whom she fondly called ‘Baby’ was among the kidnapped schoolgirls, said: “I wish she was dead and her corpse found so that we would give her a decent burial and then keep praying for the repose of her soul. There is nothing more disturbing than losing your child to strange fellows,” she said.
Barrister Hameed Yusuf, a legal practitioner, said the best thing the Nigerian authorities and foreign partners should do is to look beyond searching for the Chibok girls. “The abduction drew international attention because of the victims’ age and their status as schoolgirls but sadly, there was no commensurate effort at rescuing them for a very long time,” he said.
Yusuf suggested that experts be deployed to exhume corpses of people killed and buried in mass graves in places like Bama and Gwoza, with post-mortem and DNA tests be carried out to ascertain their identities.
Our correspondent recalls that earlier in March, when Nigerian troops launched a major offensive against the insurgents in Bama, residents and vigilantes who arrived Maiduguri from the ravaged town said scores of  Boko Haram fighters have allegedly  “slaughtered their wives” ahead of the arrival of Nigerian troops. Some of the escapees said the insurgents killed their “wives” so that nobody will re-marry them.
Modu Gana, a 49-year-old driver who escaped from Bama said he saw more than 50 female corpses on his way to Maiduguri.
It was also gathered that while many of the insurgents, who allegedly slaughtered their wives stayed in Bama and were killed during the fight with Nigerian troops, several others reportedly fled southwards to Gwoza, where their leader, Abubakar Shekau, had declared as headquarters of his ‘caliphate’.
A security source in Maiduguri, who pleaded anonymity, said some of the Chibok girls were those that were relocated to Gwoza sometime ago but that he was unsure of their condition afterwards.
All these give weight to the belief of an official of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Mr. Raad Zeid al Hussein, who said the schoolgirls abducted may have been killed. He said the girls may have been part of the group of women who were reportedly murdered by the insurgents before they fled Bama and other towns just before troops recovered the territories. Scores of abducted women, forcibly married by Boko Haram fighters, were slaughtered as the military advanced in the fight against the insurgents.
The senior UNHCR official said reports he as privy to showed that the recent recovery of territories in north eastern Nigeria have brought to light macabre scenes of mass graves and obvious signs of killings by the Boko Haram. “These reports include the murder of the wives of the insurgents, women and girls actually held in slavery,” he said.
The report by UNHRC may explain the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the Chibok girls, despite the recapture of Gwoza, as well as the disappearance of the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.
A military source also told Daily Trust in Maiduguri: “Remember the girls were said to have been forcibly married off, so they may have been part of those women butchered in Bama and other parts which were under their captivity.”
Our correspondent also reports that one Mairo Adamu, 38, who escaped from Gwoza in March, said she was held hostage for many months. She also said a few weeks to her escape, some girls, believed to be among the Chibok girls were relocated to Gwoza from Sambisa Forest. “We stayed in the same compound with them for some time before I escaped,” she said, adding that at the time of her escape, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was still there, having preached to them severally. Few days after she escaped, the Nigerian Army announced the final recapture of Gwoza, but there was no news about the Chibok girls, casting more doubt on their well-being.
It could be recalled that in April, then coordinator of the National Information Centre (NIC), Mike Omeri, said the federal government still hoped the girls would be found. “The search continues and that is why even with capture of Bama and the rest, the military remains unrelenting. We shouldn’t give in to speculation,” he had said.
While the 57 girls that escaped long ago have been taken to various schools by the Borno State government, it is now left to be seen whether the federal government will give Nigerians a big surprise 500 days after. The nation and the world are watching.

Culled from: http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/news/500-days-after-chibok-parents-seek-reunion-with-daughters/108252.html

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