10 Years After, 5 Pressing Issues

Witten by: Bukky Shonibare

 

 

It remains a national dent that 10 years ago – on April 14, 2014, over 200 schoolgirls were abducted from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok. In the aftermath of this devastating event, several concerning issues have emerged, signaling a troubling descent into a crisis that demands urgent attention. 

 

 

  1. Logistics of Mass AbductionsIn the initial weeks following the Chibok abduction, there was a contentious debate regarding its authenticity. While some believed the event actually happened, others were skeptical, citing logistical impossibilities for such a large-scale abduction. However, this grim reality has been confirmed by the subsequent series of mass abductions across Nigeria.According to Invictus Africa, there have been at least 17 mass abductions of primary, secondary, and Islamiyya schoolchildren in the last 10 years—the 344 boys in Kankara, Katsina State; 279 girls in Jangebe, Zamfara State; 136 boys and girls in Tegina, Niger State; 112 girls in Yauri, Kebbi State; 121 boys in Maraban Damishi, Kaduna State; and 137 boys and girls in Kuriga, Kaduna State, among many others.To prevent such large-scale abductions from reoccurring, the government must enhance its early warning and rapid response mechanisms at community and school levels, conduct targeted crackdown operations against criminal networks, and improve community engagement and border security.
  2. Polarized StateNigeria is a polarized state – evident in the intricate interplay of ethnicity, religion, and politics and its influence on collective responses to critical issues. The abduction of the Chibok girls serves as a striking example; as many viewed it as a politically motivated tactic to discredit the Jonathan-led government. The narrative believed and peddled by duty bearers at the time significantly shaped the initial response. It was almost three weeks after the abduction that the government acknowledged it; resulting in delayed action that contradicted expert recommendations for swift intervention within 24 to 48 hours—an action crucial in determining the eventual outcome of such abductions.The recent general elections, unfortunately, underscored the deep-seated polarization within our nation – highlighting how decisions are often influenced by our distinct and overlapping affiliations and identities. A multifaceted approach is required to tackle the underlying factors fueling division in Nigeria and to foster understanding and unity among diverse groups.
  3. Differing DataThe 10th anniversary of the Chibok girls’ abduction was another occasion where different actors presented divergent data regarding the number of Chibok girls still in captivity. While the Borno State government stated that only 89 girls were remaining, many CSOs say it is 91; further complicated by varying reports from the media. This is particularly worrisome because behind statistics are real humans, and considering the significance of accurate data in addressing school-based abductions and kidnappings. If we do not know the number of missing persons, how do we formulate strategies and determine the resources needed for their rescue?The time for a Missing Persons Register is now! Data-driven approaches are not just advantageous but essential in the fight against kidnappings and abductions, especially in gaining valuable insights into the perpetrators’ modus operandi and facilitating prevention and response approaches. Such data helps to understand trends and patterns when disaggregated by locations, timeframes, demographics of victims, and perpetrators’ tactics. Moreover, the holistic early warning and rapid response architecture needed to effectively prevent and respond to school-related abductions relies on credible and timely data, especially in detecting potential threats as well as identifying and prioritizing high-risk areas.
  4. Unsafe SchoolsFollowing the Chibok abduction, the Federal Government of Nigeria initiated the Safe School Initiative, stemming from its commitment to the Safe School Declaration. This initiative aimed to secure schools and relocate students to safer areas when necessary, leveraging funds from philanthropists, business leaders, and international donors.Subsequently, the government implemented the National Policy on Safety, Security, and Violence-Free Schools. This policy focused on enhancing school security, empowering security forces to address threats effectively, and ensuring continued education for children affected by conflict and crises, among other objectives.Despite these concerted efforts, schools across Nigeria continue to face security challenges. According to Invictus Africa, in the past decade, at least 20 school abductions occurred, with 10% from the north-east and south-west each; 25% from the north-central; and 55% from the north-west, underscoring the ongoing vulnerability of educational institutions in various regions.
  5. Political Economy of School KidnappingsThe surge in school kidnappings across Nigeria in the past decade has highlighted broader societal issues intertwined with political and economic factors. Weak governance, corruption, and a lack of accountability create an environment where criminals can operate freely. Marginalized communities suffer the most due to limited resources and insecurity, making them vulnerable targets. Ransom payments further fuel kidnappings, perpetuating a cycle of violence and extortion. These incidents are also sometimes exploited for political motives, complicating efforts to address root causes.To combat school-based abductions, Nigeria must improve governance, fight corruption, enhance security measures, and invest in education and social services for vulnerable communities.A lingering question persists – What lessons have we, as a nation, learned from the tragic Chibok incident? While the abduction of the Chibok girls remains a heartbreaking chapter in Nigeria’s history, successive governments must take decisive measures to prevent any recurrence. Regrettably, data paints a stark picture—we have not learned from Chibok! Until we do, the safety of schools, students, and educators will continue to be compromised, dissuading many from pursuing education.

 

 

 

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 – Bukky Shonibare is a founding strategic team member of the #BringBackOurGirls movement. She is also the Executive Director of Invictus Africa

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