Chibokgirls: Govt has failed to do the needful —Onifade, BBOG spokesperson
Five years ago, the Boko Haram terrorists invaded the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, abducting students, girls, from their dormitories. 57 of these girls reportedly escaped, while 107 were released at different times. To commemorate the fifth year in captivity of the remaining 112 girls, the spokesperson of the BringBackOurGirls movement, NIFEMI ONIFADE, in this interview with ADETOLA BADEMOSI, speaks on effort of the Federal Government to rescue the remaining girls, among other issues.
On Sunday, the BringBackOurGirls movement will be commemorating the 5th year since the Chibok school girls were abducted. How would you rate the government’s effort at rescuing the girls in the last five years?
Quite simply, you can look at the numbers of those who have returned and those who have not returned as an indication of the success of the government. You can only look at the results in terms of what has been achieved in terms of the returns of the girls and so far, we have had about 107, with 112 still in captivity for almost five years on Sunday. So if you are to look at how well the government has done, you can look no further than those numbers and know that for 112 number of the Chibok girls to be with their abductors means the government has failed to do the needful in securing their release. The 112 [girls] have had their freedom taken away from them for five years, their dreams put on hold for five years, their families as well as communities have not heard from them in five years.
So, would you say the efforts were adequate?
The government’s efforts are certainly not adequate because if they were, we would have the 112 still in captivity back with us; but we don’t. Nothing is good enough until we have the remaining girls in captivity back with us.
Apart from the daily sit-outs and marches, how else do you intend to press home your demands?
Part of what we do is the protest, with which we raise awareness and try to compel the government to do its job. That is what we would continue to do and that is what we have always done. We do not believe that we should take up any role beyond our role as citizens and this means that we ask that the government do what it needs to do. For the 112 girls to still be in captivity, the government has not done enough and there is so much more to be done for those girls.
As a movement, are you hopeful that the remaining girls will be rescued alive?
We are very hopeful. In Abuja, for instance, we have met everyday, since April 2014. We will not continue meeting and asking the government to bring back the remaining girls if we are not hopeful . In Lagos, we have people that meet every Saturday doing the same thing and people in other places around the world. In some parts of the world, we have people who are holding the lights out hoping that the girls will be returned. We have no reason not to have hope and we will continue to hold on to it.
Has the BBOG been keeping in touch with parents of missing girls, and how have they been coping in the last five years?
A lot of the parents, as you can imagine, are not coping very well. We have a number of them who have died and very recently, one of them was terribly sick at the hospital. Other parents are angry, anxious, distressed and upset. Five years is not a short amount of time not to know what is going on with your daughter. Some parents even said they don’t want to speak with media for fear that it will jeopardise anything related to the rescue.
How many of the girls’ parents are dead?
I don’t have the exact figure,because I don’t know how many of them were parents of those who have returned and those who have not. The numbers have been on both sides.
What about the previously released girls, has BBOG been allowed to contact them?
No, we have not. But as I said, the singularity of our purpose is for the government to bring back the girls. Afterwards, we just push the responsibility of the girls to the government to take care of their rehabilitation, reunification etc.
We have also not had access because the government has kept them in custody, but that is not what bothers us as far as the government is doing all it needs to do for them to make sure they are able to live a normal and fulfilling life beyond the tragic event.
Now what are your expectations of the government regarding the girls?
Our demands are the same since April 14 2014, which is simply: “#BringBackOurGirls”. Bring back the 112 of the 276 that were initially taken and allow them to live a normal life as citizens of Nigeria. Give them the dignity and justice that they deserve. In terms of what the government should do, we have said that the government has three options. One is through negotiations; two, through the use of force or military actions and three is employing a combination of negotiations and military actions. For us, we will not tell the government how to do its job. What we demand from the government is that they should do their job,which is to secure the immediate return of the girls.
Don’t you think the FG on its part is working to getting them released?
There is a lot of silence from the government on the abducted girls. We don’t know whether the government is trying to pretend like there is no problem. But whatever reasons for its silence, it is not good enough. We have parents waiting, hoping to hear from the government, communities, as well as Nigerians, but the strongest message the government can send is a message of results that come from their direct actions.