Who would have believed that after the disturbing abduction of 14th April, 2014 that saw 276 female students kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State, a similar incident will again play out?
At a time benefits of girl child education was beginning to gain consciousness in Northern Nigeria after years of advocacy, it is sad to discover that girl child education is taking a deeper plunge. One hundred and ten girls openly taken away from their school like lightening flash! And under a government that won election following its virulent criticism of the past administration during which the Chibok attack happened?
It was Rachel Hatch, Research Associate at Education Policy and Data Centre, who observed that while school participation remains a challenge across Nigeria, with obstacles particularly severe in northern states, the brazen strikes by Boko Haram, and its targeting of girls has compounded risks associated with school-going for girls and young women.
This challenge to safety according to Ms. Hatch, accompanies great educational need in Borno for instance, “where the female secondary school net attendance rate is only 29% in comparison to a national average of 53%”.
She wrote that “given the increased violence from Boko Haram from 2010 forward, it is impressive that even 54% of secondary school age girls participate in some form of schooling, formal or non-formal. Still, alarmingly, nearly half (46%) of girls of secondary school age aren’t attending either formal or non-formal education programs and therefore, don’t receive any benefit of schooling. Addressing the educational needs of young women in Borno and across northern Nigeria requires investment that is sensitive to the dangers of this context and helps to ensure safe participation in school”.
Nigerians should not easily forget that international outrage was sparked when the 276 girls were taken captive. But for there to be a repeat nearly four years later in a neighbouring state (Yobe), is totally unacceptable. Chibok is 275km south-east of Dapchi.
In 2014, the military and the government initially denied the abduction. Four years on and the world watched aghast and in disbelief, as denials and misinformation spewed from the authorities in similar circumstances, nearly on the same location.
The BBC News on its website, 26 February, 2018 put it thus: “There is a feeling that no lessons have been learnt by current administration, which come to power partly because of the public anger over the way the previous government had handled the Chibok abduction, and the Boko Haram crisis more generally…Whether the Nigerian authorities will be able to find, and rescue, the Dapchi girls remains to be seen”. However, President Mohammadu Buhari has said troops and reconnaissance aircraft would be used and no stone left unturned in the hunt for the girls.
A most disturbing part of the Dapchi story is the role of the military and police. It was alleged that few weeks to the occurrence, troops stationed close to the school were withdrawn leaving the area vulnerable. The Defence Headquarters, stoutly denied this.
Eventually, the Nigerian Army through its Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, the military’s anti-insurgency command in the North-East, admitted that troops were redeployed from the Dapchi area before the abduction of the schoolgirls but added that the army “handed over the security of the area to the Nigeria Police,” upon certifying that relative peace had been restored.
Then the blame game commenced with Police stating that at no time did the military formally hand over the security of the town to it.
It is cheering however that the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the Muslim umbrella body, had expressed deep concern over the abduction of the Dapchi school girls, insisting that the continuous abduction of school girls is a potent attempt to frustrate girl child education in Northern Nigeria.
The organisation in a statement lamented that despite the many enrolment campaign efforts for female education in the north, parents, particularly in the North East are worried about allowing their daughters go to school.
Well said. But the pertinent rhetoric is: It was Chibok; then Dapchi, where next? The reality of the manner of women being brazenly denigrated in the North East came to the fore on Tuesday 27th of February, 2018 when Hon. Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, from Pilachiroma in Hawul Local Government of Borno State retired as a justice of the Supreme Court having attained the constitutional retirement age of 70. It was Abubakar Mahmuod (SAN), President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) who raised the heavy question? He asked thetorically: how many Justice Ogunbiyis were among those girls that have been taken over time?
Actually when the retired female jurist proceeded to Waka Girls Primary School, Biu, a senior primary boarding school, there were girls from Chibok studying in that school. The hard hitting question is: what if they had all been abducted at that time? Nigeria would never have heard or benefited from the services of this eminent jurist.
The Judge was first woman from the North East to be appointed Justice of the Court of Appeal and also the first to sit on the Supreme Court bench. Her close friend and school mate, rights activist/legal professional, Mrs. Fatima Kwaku, also from Borno state, also might not have achieved the heights she reached if her education/life had been cut short or if she abducted or forced into marriage at an early age.
What about Hon. Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the President of the Court of Appeal who is from the neighbouring Gombe state, amongst other notable women from the region?
Therefore, we at The AUTHORITY insist that retrogressive tendencies such as girl child abduction, forced marriage and other debilitating attitude against women must be resisted by everybody, most especially by community leaders, politicians and the government. It is an ill wind that breeds only retrogression, contempt and underdevelopment. We must do everything to immediately rescue those abducted girls. Any of these missing girls might be imbued to shine like stars, just like the aforementioned women!