There is fear, worry, concern and outrage across Nigeria as more than 200 girls were kidnapped from their boarding school dorms in Chibok nearly two weeks ago.
Chibok, in northeastern Nigeria, is a mixed Christian and Muslim town in the part of the country that is predominately Muslim. Many suspect that the attackers and kidnappers belong to an Islamist extremist group named Boko Haram. Though the mass kidnapping has dominated national news conversations, there are many who feel as if the government and military are not invested in freeing the teenage girls and crushing an increasingly dangerous insurgency.
The Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” is the same group that accepted responsibility for the fatal bombing on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital Abuja earlier this month, just hours before the mass kidnapping.
Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani said the issue has plagued people across the country, of all ethnic groups.
“”It’s a situation of present, continuous agony. Everybody is terrified at the thought of what they might be going through. There’s just no reason why these girls could have been targeted. They’re so innocent, so harmless. They’re probably Muslim and Christian. It’s frightening. They’re not being seen as Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo [three of Nigeria’s major ethnic groups]. They’re not being seen as northerners or easterners. They’re just seen as children.”
This is not the first time the Boko Haram has targeted a school. In the past girls have been spared, the Boko Haram let them go, ordering them to go home, get married and give up their studies. Then there are other times when the extremists used their hostages as sex slaves and cooks in their camp. The sect believes in upholding strict Muslim laws and wants to oust the government.
One girl, who asked not to be named because she feared for her safety, told reporters that she and some of her other classmates at the Government Girls’ Secondary School were put into trucks and driven off by armed men dressed as soldiers. Some of the girls jumped out of the trucks and escaped. Still, authorities believe that nearly 200 girls are being held in the Sambisa Forest, a remote Boko Haram hideout.
Families of the missing girls have fundraised money in order to purchase fuel for motorcycles, so fathers, brothers and other men can go search for these children.
One father, who also requested anonymity told the BBC “We, the parents, we are pleading please leave our daughters. I plead, let the Boko Haram have mercy on our little ones. They are our future.”
Family members who have been searching for the girls say they have not seen any Nigerian military around the area, in the forest. In fact citizens have vituperated the Nigerian army for announcing, earlier, that most of the teen girls had been freed. This was not true and they had to retract their statement.
But presidential spokesman Reuben Abati defended the government saying the administration is determined to rescue the girls but he cautioned that frequent, almost daily, air strikes of the forest the Boko Haram have occupied could also endanger the lives of the students.
Many Nigerian citizens are beginning to feel the government is inept as they were also unable to control another terrorist uprising on three northeastern states nearly a year ago.
Abati, the spokesman, says the president acknowledges the terrorist problem but says that it’s not just a national problem but rather one that needs to involve international cooperation. He continues, “In terms of strategy, in terms of logistics, the presidency and the Nigerian government is, of course, working with the Amrericans, working with the British, and is also working particularly with neighboring countries.”
But after a string of terrorist activity, many are fed up with the promises and just want peace and security.