As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas with close friends and family members, the Christians in Chibok prepare for another Christmas without their girls.
Below, World Watch Monitor speaks to Yakubu Nkiki Maina, the chairman of the Chibok Abducted School Girls’ Parents’ Association. His 18-year-old daughter, Maimuna, was among the more than 200 girls abducted from Chibok State Secondary School in April 2014. Eighteen months after her kidnap, he expressed the parents’ frustration.
“On 14 April, 2014 Boko Haram stormed Chibok. This incident happened when I was at home … Around 9pm, I heard a gunshot towards the direction of Chibok. So, all the people in my village ran away, thinking that Boko Haram will also come [there]. Early in the morning, one of my friends from Chibok came to me [and said that] all the girls in the school had been abducted by Boko Haram and carried away. I rode to the school, [where I] met a crowd of people,” said Maina.
At the school, the parents were confronted by the devastation Boko Haram had caused. “All the school hostels [dormitories], the academic areas, the principal’s office, laboratories, every building in the school had been burned down by Boko Haram. Everybody was crying.”
For some of the parents, the shock was just too much and many collapsed. “Some were falling on the ground because these girls had been kidnapped by Boko Haram. I and my wife and some of my blood brothers [also] started crying.
“We could not agree to just let them go freely with our daughters. So we gathered ourselves and took our local [hunting] weapons and started pursuing Boko Haram. The next day we came to a certain village in Damboa local government area near Sambisa Forest. There we met the village head of the area, who told us that Boko Haram has passed there with our daughters. He said, ‘They are close by. But I am warning you, don’t go near the place. They have heavy weapons. They will kill you all. The government knows something about this. Go and inform government that Boko Haram is here with your daughters. They are not far.’”
Disappointed at slow government response
After that grave warning, the parents returned to report the matter to the government security services in the area. But their response disappointed the parents because it seemed to lack the required urgency.
“They said they will make arrangements to go and rescue the girls … The outgoing president promised us that they know the whereabouts of these girls, that they would soon bring them back to us alive. How many months now? Not any good news about these girls.
“Now that the new government is on the ground we [thought] that it will do something about these girls in captivity because [the new president] is a man of the people. To my surprise, Boko Haram up to now are attacking in my areas, more especially in the neighbouring local government areas such as Askira and Damboa. Why is it that in the area where these incidents happened, up to now Boko Haram are able to attack some of the villages? Why can’t the army go into the thick forest to look for this Boko Haram? We are appealing to the government. There are still Boko Haram hiding in large numbers in the area. So if this is the case, we need more effort from the army, even though the army were trying, they were trying, they leave their houses, their wives, their children, almost a year to protect our lives and properties, but we want more effort to be made.”
Entire families have been left deeply traumatised by the Chibok abduction.
“All the families of these abducted girls, we do not have peace of mind. You will see the junior or senior [siblings] of the girls in captivity, and the mothers. All the time during meals when they are about to take breakfast or lunch, when they look around and can’t see the girls with whom they would normally chatter, they start crying. Some will stop eating. And these things have brought some problems. That is why some of the mothers have even developed ulcers. They cannot eat well. All the activities with which the girls who had been kidnapped [used to] help their mothers, now that they are not around, the mothers are always crying.
“Up to now, the parents, my colleagues and more especially our women, are in terrible conditions, [suffering from] heart attacks, ulcers as a result of thinking about these girls. They have developed some traumatic [conditions that] need medical care. We cannot afford to carry them to hospital. We’ve buried 18 parents of these girls due to these problems.”
What the parents are hoping for is that the government will make a way for the women to receive proper care. “If the government comes to their aid, maybe by God’s grace, by God’s help, these deaths from stress may not occur. Our general hospital in the area cannot solve this problem unless we have a qualified doctor in the field of counselling to attend to these women.
“Presently when we hear gunshots everybody will start running to the bush, even though we have military men on the ground. Since so far up to now, Boko Haram are attacking. And before these military men hear of the incident, Boko Haram would have already done their work and run away. So really, we are afraid.”
In light of the continued insecurity, schools in Borno and Yobe states have been closed down.