What Have They Done To Our Daughters? -Parents Of Borno Abducted Girls

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“IT was like death when it happened. We cried. We shouted.
We even cursed.” This is a lamentation of one of the hapless parents who have
had misery etched on their faces since their daughters were abducted by the
dreaded Boko Haram insurgents and taken to God-knows-where. The fate of the
girls, who were taken right from their school ground, Government Secondary
School, Chibok, Borno State, still hangs in the balance.
The miserable parents now appear torn between a seeming
lethargic government and their own helplessness in rescuing the situation. They
cannot have a closure because their daughters are not dead. They cannot rest
because their children remain stashed away in a thick forest. They have
swallowed a pestle, neither can they stand nor sit any longer. Would they be
justified to have a moment of comfort when their children might be languishing
in a place far beyond their reach? Can they spare a moment without agonising
over the lot of their little ones? This is a question any true parent should be
able to answer. Continue after the cut.

A few of the affected parents shared their tales of woe with
Saturday Tribune.
According to Mr Pagu Haruna, he could not describe how he
felt about the incident. For him, Awa, his daughter, was a promising child,
well-behaved and dedicated to her studies. He said he could not imagine what
might be happening to her but he hoped that she would return home like others
so he could be happy again.
“I am a sad man. I was among those who went out after our
daughters. I am missing a daughter, a niece and a girl put in my care, a
friend’s daughter, who is not from Chibok. So, I cannot explain how I am
feeling. But I feel the principal should have known that the military would not
come to a place like that at the time they did to evacuate students to safety
without having one or two of the officers who would be known to the school
authorities.
“There were security operatives guarding the school. She
should have asked questions before handing over the students in her care to
anybody for whatever reasons. We understand the circumstance, but a person in
charge of a school, a hospital or any other place like that should be able to
think in such a situation.
“If they had taken those students by force, perhaps
something could have been done to arrest the situation before they left town
but they simply identified themselves as security operatives who wanted to
evacuate the students to safety. Although I am not blaming the principal, I
feel something is amiss. If I were in her place, I would have asked questions
so that when parents came as we all went to her, she would have tangible
answers to give us, but all we are being told is one story or another.
“The number keeps changing and we are confused. When we
started hearing gunshots in the night, we thought it was the military because
sometimes, they would be firing in the night perhaps to scare away whoever
might be having some funny ideas. But that night, it was different.
Suddenly, there were people shouting and the sound of guns
became louder and more rapid.
“Chibok is like one family; our relatives who are living as
far away as Abuja were the ones who called to inform us that the school was
attacked and our children had been abducted. I was frightened when my younger
brother, a military officer, who is in Abuja, called me to ask about our
well-being at about 1.00 pm. I told him we were at home but there was trouble
and he told me that he was aware because a relation of ours who was also in
Abuja called him. 
“When he said he heard that our only school was attacked and
our daughters were taken, I rushed out of the house. I met some of our people
who were already outside and they came with the same report. It was at that
moment that all of us came together and went towards the school area and saw it
still burning with a few students who had escaped the attack. The students were
the ones who told us that some of their colleagues were taken by soldiers in
uniform.
“At that time, we were relieved until we realised that our
daughters were actually in the hands of insurgents, and not soldiers as we were
earlier told. We became confused. I broke down in tears. The women wailed and
since then, we have not had rest of minds. It was one story leading to another.
Even when the governor came, we thought the government wanted to announce
officially that they had rescued our children, but he had only come to give us
hope. He left with a promise to ensure a safe return of our children. We don’t
know how these young children are doing out there in the bush with strange men
around them,” he said.
Another parent, Mallam Yaga Chiroma, told Saturday Tribune
that: “This is very unfortunate. The government is saying all sorts of things,
but my brother, we are feeling the pain. We told the governor our minds when he
came to Chibok. We told him it was wrong to mention figures that are not true.
They took away 234 children, not 129. We only saw about 40 of our children, the
rest of them are out there waiting to be rescued. We have lost all hope in the
government. They say one thing and do another. We appreciate the fact that the
governor came to commiserate with us, but we are not trusting in his promises.
We have turned to God for the salvation of our daughters. This was the first
time the governor would be coming to Chibok since the beginning of this crisis.
We thank him for remembering us. We have been wounded. We have been broken. We
have been cheated. We are sad.
“My daughter’s name is Falmata. I  hope to see her again but I do not believe
all that the government or the principal is saying because they did not go with
us to search for our daughters. In fact, it was by the grace of God that those
of us who went into the forest to search for them were able to come back alive.
We abandoned the search when, at a point, we were surrounded by strange men who
warned us not to go further. It was as if all hope was lost, but when we
returned home, people who came around to talk to us encouraged us and we are
waiting for a miracle to happen. I would have personally invited you to Chibok
but I know it is not possible for you to come, but the pain is everywhere;
everybody in Chibok is affected. If your daughter is not among these children,
your niece, your neighbour’s daughter, a friend’s daughter or at least a close
relation would be among them. Some people are now thinking of going the old way
– invoking the ancient spirit – but those of us who are believers are hoping
for a miracle,” Chiroma said.
Stephen Abana, who spoke with Saturday Tribune on the
incident, said his late brother’s daughter, who is in his care, is among the
abducted girls.
According to him, his own daughter was one of those who fled
when the attackers came to their school. “I cannot relax: my biological
daughter escaped, but my late brother’s daughter, who is also my daughter, is
with Boko Haram. I feel the pain like any other father in Chibok. We are all
kibaku, one family. We feel the pain of our loss, but we are praying for our
children’s safety and their return home. It was like death when it happened. We
cried. We shouted. We even cursed. We went out after them, but we came back
with no success because we did not bring back with a single girl that was
abducted from the school. If we had weapons, we could have fought our way into
the den of the abductors. Many would die and we could have made progress. This
is our story in Chibok. We, however, have not lost hope that our children will
be back.
“Our people are brave. Yes. But we cannot confront those who
abducted our children. The soldiers could not get half of the way we went. But
the truth is that there is nothing that we can do except the Federal Government
sends soldiers after these people along with some of our people who know the
forest and bring our girls back home. We must also prepare our minds for any
eventuality if soldiers must go there to get these girls. It is not going to be
easy confronting them and getting the girls without any of them getting hurt.
But if the government could find a way to avoid confrontation, we will
appreciate it because everybody wants to have their daughters back safe.
“We do not know how they are treating our daughters now.
Whatever is happening or has happened to them, we do not know. Our prayer is
that every one of them will come back to us alive. When the governor came, we
pleaded with him to assist us and he promised to do something even though some
of us did not believe the government. I believe it is natural to have different
views and opinions when something like this happens, but we can do nothing
other than to plead with the government, hear what they have to tell us and
wait for their action whether it comes or not,” he said.
Meanwhile, women in the state under the umbrella of Baobab
for Women’s Rights have condemned the abduction of the female students as well
as other females abducted in Dikwa and other parts of the state and the
North-East by Boko Haram insurgents. They described the act as inhuman and
detrimental to the efforts of the government to enhance girl-child education
and develop the state and the country at large.
The women, through their leader, Professor Hauwa Abdu Biu,
told journalists in Maiduguri that the abduction of the  young girls was a violation of their rights.
According to them, abduction is a crime against humanity and is prohibited
under international humanitarian law. Violence such as attacks on schools
denies children their rights to learn in a safe environment, thereby
jeopardising their future.
“We also condemn all other attacks in the form of bomb
blasts and serial killings all over the country and commiserate with the
families of those that lost their lives during the unfortunate incidents. We
called on the sect members to release all those in their custody without
harming them and, as a matter of urgency, lay down their arms and embrace
dialogue. We also wish to assure all those abducted of our motherly support
towards rehabilitating them when the need arises,” the women said.
While commending the efforts of the federal and state
governments as well as security operatives and volunteer groups towards
addressing insurgency in the state, the group appealed for the provision of
adequate security in all schools so as to have safe learning environment for
the young ones.
In the meantime, the principal of Government Secondary
School, Chibok, Borno State, Mrs Asabe Kwambura, has cleared the air as to the
status of the school. She said the school, which was initially only meant for
girls and as such, was known as Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, was
in 2011 converted into a mixed school by the government, hence, it was now
known as Government Secondary School, Chibok. She put the students’ population
at 935.

The principal told journalists during the week that the
number of missing students now stands at 230. “Initially, before the arrival of
the governor, 234 were missing but four students returned. The number of girls
rescued so far is 43.  I have only
received 43 students and handed them over to their parents. The initial 129
figure I gave was those that sat for examination on the day they were abducted.
The total number of boarding female students is 405. This means that out of 405
students, we have 230 that are still missing. But the other issue is that out
of the 230 missing girls, some of them ran home to meet their parents and we
have not received any information on them,” she said.

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