Apr 13, 2016 (International Crisis Group/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — Muhammadu Buhari spoke out clearly when he took over Nigeria’s presidential seat from Goodluck Jonathan in May last year: “We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents”.
At that time, one year had already passed since the 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram. Now, another year later, Nigerians are still waiting to see their government do everything it can to find the girls and Boko Haram‘s many other victims.
The ill-fated girls were seized from their dormitory at the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, in a midnight raid on 14 April 2014. Their ordeal since then underscores the toll the Boko Haram insurgency has taken on over one million children, especially girls, in north-east Nigeria and – to a lesser degree – in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The fate of the Chibok girls has come to symbolise the horror of the insurgency, because the victims have been publicly identified by name and face. But there have been countless other incidents where unnamed thousands have been abducted, brutalised, sexually violated and shared out as “wives” to insurgents. Scores have been sent to their death in suicide bombing missions.
The previous government’s response to the kidnapping – and indeed to the wider insurgency – highlighted much that is wrong with security and governance in Nigeria. The reaction of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration ranged from initial indifference and denial to later incompetence and deception. Crippled by corruption and mismanagement, the government failed or was unable to respond promptly or effectively to the incident. Military authorities falsely reported that the girls had been rescued, then later claimed they knew where they were being held but lacked the capacity to carry out a rescue operation without endangering their lives.
Pressured by public protests in Nigeria and abroad, Jonathan belatedly established a presidential fact-finding committee, headed by retired military intelligence chief Brigadier General Ibrahim Sabo. The Sabo committee determined that 57 girls had escaped while 219 were still in captivity, but its report has never been made public.
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