STATEMENT: Two Years Without Our Girls Is Unimaginable
Being the text of a world press conference at the State House Abuja marking two full years of the abduction of our Chibok schoolgirls
14 April 2016
1. Today marks two full years since 276 schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok were abducted in their school on the night of 14 April 2014; 57 of them managed to escape at various times, but 219 of them remain missing.
Today also marks 716 days of our movement, #BringBackOurGirls’ consistent, daily advocacy to ensure their rescue, safe return, reunion and reintegration with their families and communities. We, like our President, Muhammadu Buhari agree that achieving their rescue would be the ultimate evidence of our country’s defeat of the forces of darkness that have sought to destroy our country and people.
We recall the highly assuring statement in the inauguration speech of President Buhari that:
” We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage . . . This government will do all it can to rescue them alive.”
It is one key reason that we have not given up our demand for their rescue, convinced that a sustained and results-based operation can quickly yield the long expected result.
We have also advocated for urgent actions by our government and its local and international partners to address the monumental humanitarian crises in the North East region of Nigeria and begin to restore order and peace in destroyed communities.
2. In the nearly two years of our advocacy, we have averred that failure of governance created the conditions for the abduction of our Chibok girls and all other similarly affected citizens in the first place. It is the same failure of governance that has impeded the search and rescue, and resulted in the failure to rescue even one out of the 219 girls after 24 months of their abduction.
We are however hopeful in the glimmer of light we see through evidence of a better equipped and motivated Nigeria military which has in the last one year recorded commendable feats in the counter-terrorism war. We applaud the gallant soldiers (along with the police and other security forces including the Civilian JTF) who daily risk their lives for our safety.
3. We, like most Nigerians are however extremely worried about brittle military-civilian relationship manifested in recent developments in places like Zaria, Aba and Onitsha where mass killings have been reported against our military. We want to see the federal government unveil every opaque investigation on this happenings and commence full disclosure with adequate remediation in all such cases.
That notwithstanding, we must not down play the successes that our military has recorded in the counter- terrorism since February 2015 epitomized by a strong string of victories against the terrorists. Our military has degraded their capability as an “occupying insurgent group”, retrieved our territories and rescued thousands of our citizens. These are no mean feats and are therefore worthy of our commendation.
Our movement once again wholeheartedly commends the federal government for redeeming our military from the ignoble ridicule that a band of rampaging terrorists were making of what was once a globally acknowledged effective armed and peace keeping force.
4. The problem however is that hitherto, our federal government, the military and the broader security team are less than persuasive on the matter of rescue of our 219 Chibok girls. With the strong promises made by Mr President to rescue them as a matter of priority, we had hoped that there would by now be a positive outcome on the search and rescue operation mounted for them. It is for this reason that parents of Chibok girls, their community and our movement were devastated by the feedback received from our President, seven months into this administration. We are still puzzled at the fact that the President in out meeting of 14 January 2016 inferred that our Chibok girls were not yet rescued because the government “lacked credible intelligence on the whereabouts of the girls”.
To us, the implication of this statement is that with our government lacking such critical information on the possible location of all or some of the girls, nearly two years after their abduction, we are left with an open-ended prospect for their rescue.
5. The truth must be told: Nigeria has disappointingly failed these 219 school girls of ours for far too long. Two years is unacceptably a long time for young women to be left as captive of terrorists. Not only Nigeria, but the world has failed our girls. We all as humanity have failed our girls in not doing all we can to ensure their rescue these past 731 days.
Yet, Hope Endures. That hope has been cautiously renewed by the recent release of a “proof of life video” of some of the abducted girls identified by some of their parents. Hope is renewed in the federal government’s first ever Round Table with civil society and other partners that was hosted by the Vice President on the eve of the two years of the Chibok girls abduction yesterday.
Hope is renewed in the two-year commemoration event that our Chibok girls’ parents are currently hosting in Chibok today with federal and state government delegations providing not just comfort but progress report on the efforts to rescue their daughters; our daughters.
These were all issues we have long demanded that the federal government should do at the two meetings we have had with the President on July 8, 2015 and January 14, 2016. It took the government a long time to finally embrace our demands but we welcome and applaud the fact that it has finally commenced.
6. We however caution that the most important activity we expect from our federal government and countries with capabilities to support the rescue effort for our 219 girls is to act without any further delay. Our government must lead a well-coordinated, coherent, sustained and results-focused “SWAT” search and rescue team that mobilizes every possible intelligence assets available anywhere in the world to rescue our Chibok girls and all other citizens still languishing in the den of terrorists.
Anything short of that will be deemed a blight on our bond of shared humanity. We believe that the “proof of life video” would be a good place to start in scrutinizing every possible lead that is provided our government on the whereabouts of our citizens. It should, as it escalates the rescue operation use the government-civil society Round Table to constantly provide progress reports of the operation and other related activities.
That is what democratic accountability is about and a principle that our movement is committed to entrenching in Nigeria.
7. It is for these reasons that our movement will not stop reminding our President and the federal government of their constitutional mandate and his personal pledge to rescue our Chibok girls. For 716 days we have advocated relentlessly and shall continue until our girls are rescued.
We have offered suggested solutions. The symbolism of our march to the gates of the State House, the seat of power of Nigeria, is to reiterate that the rescue of our Chibok girls, other victims of terrorism, resolving the humanitarian crises in the North East of our country, tackling the grossly worrying problems of herders attacks on citizens as symbolized in Agatu; disclosing all military misdemeanors against civilians in their communities across the country, tackling the problem of “endangered education” of millions of children in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps nationwide, are the primary duties of governments led by the federal authorities in Nigeria.
8. Our world press conference is to remind the leaders of the free world that our Chibok girls are still not back and their attention is needed here in Nigeria to support our government with all the military and intelligence capabilities that can help achieve success. We want to specifically ask leaders of countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, Israel and China which had indicated support earlier on in 2014 without achieving any real results to please return fully to help with the rescue operation.
We ask that with our federal government in the lead, your countries have a moral obligation to help locate and support the decisions on the lowest risk option of rescue for our 219 Chibok Girls and other citizens still held by terrorists.
We believe that this current administration will welcome every support that can help bring this global scale tragedy to a good end.
9. We remind the whole world that joined us in chanting #BringBackOurGirls at the beginning, that Chibok girls are global citizens. We must not stop asking until actual work of rescue is scaled up and results achieved. We call for your support to our internally displaced citizens whose livelihood are destabilized. We must all support in every way possible to begin their rehabilitation, resettlement and reintegration into communities and our society.
While we firmly believe that it is our governments that have the “large-scale” muscles to deal with the humanitarian and development needs of terrorism affected people by commencing speedy execution of the program for victims of Boko Haram, we all can individually and collectively complement those efforts.
10. We urge the federal and Borno state governments to take immediate steps to restore the Government Secondary School, Chibok from where our Chibok girls were abducted. That it continues to lie in the ruins of the tragedy and destruction that terrorists visited on it two years ago is a bad symbolic reminder.
We are full of hope that our girls will return and seek knowledge. We are persuaded that out of our 219 girls, we are capable through dedication to their individual restoration and education to produce world-class human capital similar to or even greater than the inspiring friend of Chibok girls, Malala Yousafzai, a testament that the human spirit empowered by the divine can triumph over any evil force.
We must rebuild our Chibok girls’ school now and use it to counter the terrorists’ narrative that they can attack our civilization, freedom, liberties, and quest for knowledge.
11. We persist in encouraging our government to develop an effective system, mechanism and framework for handling rescued citizens with dignity. We are extremely dissatisfied with the unprofessional manner in which our rescued compatriots are treated; most recently the 2 victims caught in Cameroon, one of them claiming to be a Chibok girl.
The federal government should at least adopt the instrument Verification, Authentication and Reunification System (VARS) that our movement designed and offered to it as a baseline for instituting an enduring and dignifying program that treats rescued citizens as assets to the country.
The incredible wealth of information that victims of terrorism can offer our security forces is being lost in the current undefined and ineffective approach.
12. We repeat our abiding pledge to the parents of our Chibok girls, eighteen of whom have died heartbroken at the tragedy that befell their daughters, many suffering of trauma-related ailments. We comfort you today, pray for you and reassure you that our movement shall not cease calling for the rescue of your daughters until they are found and brought back to you.
We are hopeful. Hope endures. You have so far been a study in resilience, grace and dignity. We shall not stop standing with you.
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls