Parents of the abducted Chibok girls have urged the federal government not to use the recent rescue of Dapchi schoolgirls as an excuse for relenting in the search for the remaining 109 Chibok girls still in captivity four years after.
They also urged the government to step up effort for the release of Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi schoolgirl who was not released by Boko Haram because she refused to denounce her Christian faith.
The parents made the call in interviews with PREMIUM TIMES on the occasion of fourth year anniversary since the girls were abducted by the terror group.
On Saturday, the Chibok community held a service in commemoration of the mass abduction.
Of the over 200 girls kidnapped, the Nigerian government negotiated the release of 103 girls between October 2016 and May 2017.
Two of the girls, Amina Nkeki and Salomi Pogu, had earlier escaped from captivity and was later found in the bush by soldiers.
That brings the total number of the rescued girls to 105. At least 112 Chibok schoolgirls are believed to still be in captivity.
Some of the girls were recently shown on a Youtube video released by the Boko Haram claiming they would rather remain with their abductors-turned- “husbands” than return to their parents.
Many of the abducted girls are also believed to have died in captivity.
While the Nigeria government continued to assure the world of its commitment to secure the release of the remaining schoolgirls, the Boko Haram staged yet another phase of abduction when gunmen in about a dozen trucks stormed Dapchi village in neighbouring Yobe state and took away another set of 110 schoolgirls.
The girls were released 31 days after the government negotiated with Boko Haram. The group refused to release Leah Sharibu account of her not being a Muslim and being unwilling to denounce her Christian faith.
Chibok parents’ worry
“What troubles and somehow make us feel sad is that it took only 31 days to rescue the Dapchi schoolgirls, while our own here in Chibok is taking up to four years now. What is the fate of the remaining 112 schoolgirls that are still remaining in captivity,” asked Yakubu Nkeki, leader of the Chibok parents.
He said given the experience of Sharibu, Chibok parents were worried whether the remaining Chibok girls were being held back because of their faith.
“The parents were crying bitterly when they saw the Dapchi girls being released by Boko Haram. And they became more devastated when they learnt that the girl only Dapchi girl that was not released, Leah, was because she was a Christian,” he said.
“Some of the Chibok parents have since that day began to lose hope and even more psychologically troubled thinking that if the girl Leah is being held back because she is a Christian, it means they may never see their daughters again, because most of them that are in captivity now are all Christians.”
Mr Nkeki said members of his community were disappointed with government officials at the state and federal level for not attending the four-year commemoration of the abduction of their daughter Saturday.
Most of the parents of the abducted and missing girls converged at the premises of the Government Girls secondary school, Chibok, where they held a prayer session for the missing girls as well as the safety of their communities.
According to the organisers, all invitation were duly sent to both state and federal government officials as well as the local government council of Chibok to attend the commemoration service but the event turned out poorly attended.
“The attendance was too poor,” said Mr. Nkeki. “Most of those in attendance were the parents of the missing schoolgirls; not more than 30 persons joined us for the prayers.
“We made it public even in the media that we are going to hold a commemoration service to mark the fourth year anniversary of the girls’ abduction. We invited everybody including the state governor, whom we learnt is out of the country at the moment. Sadly no representative was sent to attend the event, except the officials of the local government council who are here with us.”
Danladi Saleh, a medical doctor and one of the community leaders in Chibok, told PREMIUM TIMES “four years into the lives of parents whose missing daughters are yet to be found could be very devastating”.
Mr Danladi was one of those that once offered both medical and psychosocial support to the parents of the abducted girls.
“To us as a community and even the parents of these missing girls, four years of waiting in anticipation of seeing your missing child return home can be very traumatizing. It is usually very easy to manage a situation where one child is dead, that could be understandable. But when it comes to not knowing the faith that befell your missing child can be very tough,” he said.
“Some of the parents have died even before the second year of their daughters’ captivity, so one can only imagine what would be going on in the minds of the parents when they see other abducted girls return and theirs still being held in captivity.”
He said federal government should also be forthcoming with credible information about the remaining girls.
“We have heard several rumor that some of the girls are dead; to that effect the federal government should come clear with credible information on the true situation so that some of the parents whose daughters may have died, can put their minds to rest rather than continuing to suffer the trauma they have suffered all this four years.
On some of the girls that were shown on video pledging loyalty and allegiance to the Boko Haram, the medical personnel said “it is normal that when someone finds himself in such kind of situation of captivity for that length of time, the person may one way or the other subscribe to what the person is doing either willingly or by coercion. But that does not set aside the need for all of them to be rescued by government.”