On 14 April 2014, Boko Haram militants in Northern Nigeria attacked a government secondary boarding school in Chibok, Borno state, where girls from surrounding areas had gone to take exams. But Chibok had not been attacked before, so it was felt safe to use the school for the important final year exams. Many of the pupils were Christians. The gunmen arrived in the town late at night in a blaze of gunfire and headed for the school where they raided the dormitories and loaded 276 girls on to lorries. Some managed to escape within hours of their kidnapping, mostly by jumping off the lorries and running off into the bushes. In total 219 girls were taken away.
LIKE A PLAGUE:
Responsibility for the kidnappings was claimed by Boko Haram, an extremist, Islamic, terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria. 57 of the schoolgirls managed to escape over the next few months and some have described their capture in appearances at international human rights conferences. A child born to one of the girls and believed by medical personnel to be about 20 months old also was released, according to the Nigerian president’s office. Since then hopes were raised on various occasions that the 219 remaining girls might be released. Newspaper reports suggested that Boko Haram was hoping to use the girls as negotiating pawns in exchange for some of their commanders in jail. In May 2016, one of the missing girls, Amina Ali, was found. She claimed that the remaining girls were still there, but that six had died. A further 21 girls were freed in October 2016, while another was rescued the next month. Another girl was found in January 2017. 82 more girls were freed in May 2017. One of the girls, Salomi Pogu was rescued in January 2018.
WHAT THE WORLD FELT:
The global response to this movement started off as a handful of tweets by Nigerian citizens and government officials. A Nigerian lawyer made the first post on 14 April 2014. The movement even started off with a $300,000 cash reward to anyone who could help locate or rescue the girls from their kidnappers. Shortly after this, many celebrities joined in on social media holding pieces of paper with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls which went viral. Numerous celebrities were photographed holding up signs in photographs showing support for the Bring Back our Girls movement, including Salma Hayek, Bradley Cooper, Antonia Banderas, Gerard Butler, Kelsey Grammer, Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone, Ronda Rousey, Mel Gibson, Simon Baker, Ricky Martin, Eva Longoria, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Justin Timberlake, Sean Combs, Kim Kardashian, Sean Penn, Alicia Keys, Jamie Foxx, Ellen Degeneres, Amy Poehler, Anne Hathaway and Malala Yousafzai. Notably, Beyoncé had a separate section on her website that was dedicated to the movement. It stated: “In light of recent events, CHIME FOR CHANGE is raising money to distribute organizations working in Nigeria to support girl’s education. You can help the cause by donating 10$ now, by texting BRINGBACK – You can also donate online to #ChimeIn and help bring back our girls.
It’s exactly 4 years today and many Nigerians as well as the rest of the world are still asking the question: ‘Where are the remaining girls?’. Members of the Bring Back Our Girls on Friday asked the United Nations and the Federal Government to ensure the that the 112 Chibok schoolgirls still in custody of Boko Haram are freed. While 276 girls were kidnapped on April 14, 2014, 57 of them reportedly escaped, three died, 103 were released, but 112 of the girls have remained in Boko Haram captivity till date. The group said this in a letter they presented to the Director, United Nations Information Centre Lagos, the protesters during a protest march to the office of the UN agency on Friday. “We ask you to use your diplomacy and influence to ensure implementation of the Safe School Declaration, by which Nigeria commits to protecting schools and universities from violence and military use during armed conflict. Raise the issue of the plights of over 1000 children abducted from their schools,” the letter read.
Dailies still carry boxes declaring the number of days it has been since the abductions. Women in Borno carry on supporting women and girls who have managed to escape – and push for human rights, justice and an end to the conflict. Bring Back Our Girls movement continues to hold protests. Rallying people all around the world, they have called for a week of action in solidarity. A man is cycling across west Africa, from Abidjan to Lagos, to raise awareness. The anniversary will see the Empire State building lit up in purple and red. There will be a Global School Girl March, taking place from Tasmania in Australia to Stavanger in Norway, from Santiago in Chile to London in the UK – and, of course, in cities across Nigeria. As all this events happen across the world, we can only keep asking President Buhari, his kitchen cabinet and even past president, Goodluck Jonathan about the whereabout of our girls and the unsafe politics that is being played. But for now, its still high hopes.