Lagos - April 14, 2014 will go down the annals of history as one of the most sombre days in Nigerian history.
It will forever remain etched in the memory the biggest country in the continent by population and the economy.
On the day mentioned above, the country woke up to the disturbance, peddled as news, that the Islamic militant Boko Haram sect had struck the impoverished town of Chibok, then relatively unknown until the tragedy, laid siege on a girls-only government school and made off with about 300 students.
Not that the Boko Haram was a new phenomenon. Its reign of terror had resulted in the deaths of thousands.
However, it was unimaginable the internationally-condemned and outlawed group could stoop as low as abducting minors, some not into their teens. At a government school.
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Exactly a year on today, parents as well as sympathizers are still grappling with the setback and struggling to come to terms with the heinous act.
Meanwhile, local efforts and international intervention to rescue the girls have thus far been unfruitful, coinciding with the militant Islamic sect intensifying its reign of terror.
More children and vulnerable members of the distraught communities have been abducted, in fact.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), some 800 000 children have since been forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict between Boko Haram, military forces and civilian self-defence groups in northeast Nigeria, where Chibok, a humble community in Borno State, is located.
“The abduction of more than 200 girls in Chibok is only one of endless tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region,” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said ahead of the day to make the day of the abduction of the schoolgirls at gunpoint.
“Scores of girls and boys have gone missing in Nigeria – abducted, recruited by armed groups, attacked, used as weapons, or forced to flee violence. They have the right to get their childhoods back.”
Amid the ongoing siege, a group of United Nations and African human rights experts have deplored the continued captivity of the girls and called on the armed group to immediately release them as well as the numerous other children who have since been captured in Nigeria.
During the last year and a half, Boko Haram has systematically abducted hundreds of civilians, including school girls, women, religious minorities and ethnic groups, targeting in particular Christian communities. Many boys have also been taken and forcibly recruited by the armed group.
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“In the absence of progress in the past year, we urge the Nigerian Government to swiftly take all necessary measures to locate the children, ensure their safe return and recovery, and provide them with adequate assistance and protection. Nigeria must hold the perpetrators accountable, while respecting international human rights norms and standards,” the UN and African experts said ahead of the abduction anniversary.
As the old adage goes, hope is the last thing that dies, Africa’s most populous country has placed its expectations on the incoming President, Muhammadu Buhari, the former military ruler of the 1980s whose campaign to a historic victory was premised on a pledge to eliminate the insurgency that has killed more than 13 000 and displaced more than 1,5 million internally since Boko Haram’s violent campaign to carve an Islamist state in a largely Christian country of 173, 6 million people.
Buhari assumes office at the end of May.
The Jonathan administration’s handling of the terror crisis is seen as the chief architect of his downfall at the recent presidential election, his loss being the first an incumbent has suffered in an election since the advent of civilian rule in 1998.
“Jonathan Goodluck’s government failed to prevent these crimes, to prosecute and punish the perpetrators and protect the victims. The new President must do better, and fast,” declared Karim Lahidji, International Federation for Human Rights President.
- CAJ News