FOR RELEASE on February 22, 2018
On the evening of Monday, February 19th, 2018 Boko Haram attacked the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, in Yobe State supposedly to raid the food stores of the school. At the time there were 926 students on the school roll. The following morning the nation received different accounts of the number of missing female students, ranging from 50 to 111. In the intervening days, reports have been received that over 40 girls who fled into the bush in the aftermath of the attack have returned in twos and threes. The exact amount of missing girls remains unknown. Their parents are holding tearful vigils in the streets of Dapchi. Our hearts bleed for them and their community.
Today, February 22nd 2018, it will be 4 days since the Dapchi attack and 1,411 days in captivity for the 112 Chibok schoolgirls who have not escaped, been rescued, or released since THEY were abducted on the 14th of April, 2014.
We are watching, with a horrifying sense of déjà vu and with the deepest disappointment, the events unfolding with the #DapchiGirls. Have we learnt NOTHING from the #BuniYadiBoys massacre; the #ChibokGirls abduction; the #EpeBoys kidnapping, the #BabingtonMacaulaySchool snatching, the #TurkishSchool ransoming? By now the Federal and State governments should have a protocol they follow: SchoolAbduction 101. Respond swiftly. Mobilise a rescue. Urgently investigate and establish the facts. Communicate an incident report with the findings, the response, and recommendations to prevent a recurrence. Set up a communication line for the families. Mobilise the agencies and the community. Widely solicit intelligence and whistleblowing for a reward. Issue regular and accurate statements and updates on efforts being made to the general public. Implement the recommendations. Establish a missing person’s register. Publish the names of the missing. Provide counselling for the traumatised students and families.
Instead, what we are witnessing and hearing are conspiracy theories about the military presence being withdrawn two weeks prior, the usual assertions about the abduction being manufactured and being politically motivated. Inept communications and false claims by the security agencies, the state government, and the federal government. Is 4 days not enough to have contacted EVERY SINGLE PARENT of a child in that school, and every member of staff, to ascertain who was on the premises and who is still missing?
Is 4 days not enough to have traced the path of vehicles capable of carrying away over 50 people plus the insurgents themselves? Are there so many roads and settlements in the immediate area that 100 people can DISAPPEAR without a trace? Are the insurgents ghosts who move through the landscape unseen and unheard? What arrangements have been made to support the devastated family members of the missing who are holding a vigil until their children are back?
What has happened to the Safe Schools initiative that was launched in 2014 under which schools were to be pooled into safer areas with a military presence? What happened to discouraging boarding in favour of day schools in unsafe areas? Why has the Minister of Education refused to sign the global safe school declaration so that Nigeria can begin to implement some of its provisions with donor support? Why was the military allegedly withdrawn from the area about 2 weeks prior despite increasing apprehension that the town was going to come under attack? Who is the spokesperson from which security agency who made a false claim that the girls had been rescued? On what basis did s/he speak?
Please, we are demanding and appealing to President Buhari and to Yobe State Governor Gaidam that the #ChibokGirls ongoing saga MUST NOT be repeated. This is the reason #BBOG members have sacrificed their time for nearly 4 years advocating for the government of Nigeria to ‘Bring back our girls, NOW and ALIVE’. The #ChibokGirls, whose names and identities we know; and now the #DapchiGirls, whose names and identities should be urgently established.
We reiterate our demand and request that the Federal Government work with the other two tiers – local and state governments – to:
equip the police and armed forces and see to their welfare
respond swiftly to, and communicate adequately about security incidents
identify citizens who have gone missing as a result of conflict & criminality
prioritise rescue and preservation of life in security operations
ensure safe schools for our next generation of leaders
protect girls and women from societal and sexual abuse
adequately rehabilitate survivors by providing them with long term culturally appropriate psychosocial care
punish criminals including those corruptly diverting food and resources from internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps.
Painfully, we have reached #Day1411 for the Chibok girls and #Day4 for the Dapchi Girls. ONE DAY in captivity is too long. It is well overdue to bring these horrific sagas to an end. What if it were YOUR CHILD? What would you do? Would you talk about political motivations, or money making schemes, or would you simply fight to get your daughter back?
We enjoin ALL NIGERIANS wherever you are to join our movement in whichever small way you can. Attend a sit-out in Abuja, Lagos, or Oshogbo. Form a group and visit your local government chairperson. Write to your Representative or Senator. March to your Governor and State House of Assembly. Engage your local religious leader to mention this issue to your community during service. Engage local and international influencers to put pressure on our authorities. Put pressure on the federal and state ministries of education to improve their performance. Support and encourage our police and our troops however you can, even if only with some words of, “Well done”
We request that the Federal government, Borno State government, Yobe State Government, the Federal Minister of Education, and State Commissioners of Education widely communicate their plans and responses to let citizens know what steps they are taking to secure our lives, rescue and rehabilitate the kidnapped, and provide conducive environments for learning in safe, secure and hygienic conditions.
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls Lagos Family
Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome