Nigeria Marks 10 Years Since Boko Haram Chibok Kidnappings: 91 Girls Still Missing, ‘Little Has Changed’

Names of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls are displayed with their desk on April 14, 2019,
KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images

The families of the nearly 300 mostly Christian girls abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno, Nigeria, by the bloodthirsty jihadist organization Boko Haram in 2014 marked on Sunday a decade since the harrowing event, which remains unresolved as 91 girls are still in terrorist captivity.

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram terrorists swarmed Chibok’s Government Girls Secondary School, hauling 276 girls into trucks and stealing them away to northern Nigeria’s dense Sambisa Forest. Boko Haram, a radical Islamist organization whose name roughly translates from the Hausa into “Western education is a sin,” then moved rapidly to force the girls to convert to Islam and to “marry” them to their throngs of terrorists in the forest. The then-head of the terror group, Abubakar Shekau, released propaganda videos showing the girls draped in black Islamic garments, trophies of his group’s conquest.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Shekau promised in May 2014.

Reports at the time suggested that the “dowry” to “marry” one of the Chibok girls stood at around $12.

The mass abduction and subsequent Islamist propaganda campaign was the most sensational action the African jihadists had taken at the time, prior to their submission to the authority of the savage Islamic State terrorist organization and rebranding to the “Islamic State West Africa Province” (ISWAP). Parents and loved ones organized a campaign called “Bring Back Our Girls” demanding the Nigerian state do all in its power to free the victims; figures as prominent as then-First Lady Michelle Obama joined the campaign with posts on social media.

The campaign did little to galvanize meaningful action to save the girls and, outside of Nigeria, the event is now largely forgotten. The Nigerian government has repeatedly, and falsely, claimed that Boko Haram no longer exists, citing the rift between ISWAP terrorists and Shekau, who reportedly died in a battle between his loyalists and the ISWAP wing of Boko Haram. Yet jihadist terrorists continue to regularly engage in abductions and other violent activity against civilians, particularly Christians, throughout much of the northern half of Nigeria, and particularly in Borno.

Furthermore, Chibok continues to grapple with the damage caused by the 2014 kidnappings to this day. The Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF), a local organization, published a report on Monday stating that 91 of the 276 girls kidnapped are still missing. Of those who escaped or were rescued in exchange for ransoms, many returned with children, devastating their career prospects and complicating efforts to settle them back into their daily life.

“In the 10 years since the Chibok kidnapping caused global outrage, very little has changed on the ground in Nigeria where kidnapping is still as prevalent, if not worse than a decade ago,” MMF CEO Dr. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode said on Monday, according to Nigeria’s Daily Trust.

MMF also noted in its report that 48 parents of Chibok abduction victims had died in the last ten years, many of complications apparently arising from tensions and psychological trauma.

A year ago, when that number was still 38 parents, Chibok Girls’ Parents’ Association chairman Yakubu Nkeki lamented the impact on their health that the terrorist event had caused.

“We lost 38 parents in the first three years of this kidnapping,” Nkeki said. “The slightest illness can take their life due to high blood pressure. They are in so much pain, because they think too much.”

Muhammed-Oyebode, the head of the MMF, demanded on Monday that the Nigerian government act to find and return the 91 missing girls, and noted that many of those returned need special care as they do so with large numbers of children.

Then-recently freed Chibok schoolgirls sit with their children at the Army Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jossy Ola, File/AP)

“The report also revealed that 21 of the Chibok girls who were released returned with 34 children, serving as a devastating confirmation of the sexual violence and coerced marriages they endured while in captivity,” Muhammed-Oyebode.

Speaking to Nigeria’s Channels Television this week, Amina Ali Nkeki, a Chibok abductee who escaped in 2016, lamented the state of others who remain in captivity, stating that their large families make it impossible to return home. Some remain in the Sambisa Forest, she claimed.

“Some of them are mothers of three children, four children. It’s not easy for them,” Nkeki said. “She said they will be going through hunger and sicknesses and other challenges of motherhood in the forest.”

Nkeki, who married a Boko Haram terrorist, told the network that they felt it was necessary as “they [the terrorists] told us that if we didn’t agree to marry them, we are going to be their slaves. So, because of that fear, some of us thought instead of being slaves, let’s get married.”

In an interview with the Daily Trust on Sunday, former Borno Education Commissioner Musa Inuwa Kubo, who served during the kidnappings, claimed that part of the reason so many girls remain missing is that, in the initial days after the event, the federal government of then-President Goodluck Jonathan refused to believe the kidnapping had happened.

This photograph taken on March 31, 2024, shows Vice Principal Bature Sule surveying the wreckage of a dormitory destroyed by Boko Haram fighters at the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in 2014. (LAURIE CHURCHMAN/AFP via Getty)

“The sad part of it all was that the authorities did not believe that the abduction occurred. They felt it was not a real abduction, but that someone wanted to use it for political gains,” Kubo said.

“At the time we reported the abduction, had it been the Commander-in-Chief ordered the military to go into Sambisa and bring back the girls, I believe that they would have been rescued,” he continued. “But it took them about one month before they started acting; you think the insurgents don’t know what they are doing? After two to three days, they started separating the girls.”

Kubo added that some girls who remain in Boko Haram captivity “didn’t want to come back because they had been indoctrinated by the insurgents,” adding to the sensitivity of the issue.

In a report marking the grim anniversary on Monday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that child abductions in Nigeria have surged since the Chibok girls were taken.

“In the last 10 years, conflict-related violence has led to more than 1,680 children abducted while at school and elsewhere; 180 children killed due to attacks on schools,” the UNICEF report read, “an estimated 60 school staff kidnapped and 14 killed, and more than 70 attacks on schools, according to verified reports by the United Nations.”

A decade later, international aid organizations have ranked Nigeria the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian as a result of the combined threat of Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast and gangs of Fulani terrorists committing genocidal acts against Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. Despite this, President Joe Biden removed Nigeria from the State Department’s list of “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom in 2021, outraging Christian persecution experts.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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