Eight years after the abduction of 276 Chibok school girls by Boko Haram, and with more than 1,500 school children abducted by armed groups since the Chibok incident, affected regions have seen a decline in school enrollment and attendance, as well as a rise in child marriage and pregnancies of school-age girls, Amnesty International, has said.
It also said that the increasingly brazen manner of recent abductions show that the Nigerian authorities are failing to prevent these crimes from taking place and have not learned any lessons from the abduction of the Chibok school girls eight years ago, as families of abducted children are left without any hope of reuniting with their loved ones.
Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director, Osai Ojigho, in a report, released, yesterday, said: “Nigerian is failing to protect vulnerable children. By refusing to respond to alerts of impending attacks on schools across the North of the country, the Nigerian authorities have failed to prevent mass abductions of thousands of school children.
“In all cases, the Nigerian authorities have remained shockingly unwilling to investigate these attacks or to ensure that the perpetrators of these callous crimes face justice. Every fresh attack is followed by further abductions that deprive school children of their right to liberty and leave victims’ families with no hope of accessing justice, truth, or reparations.
“The Nigerian authorities must urgently comply with the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to which it is a state party. They must take concrete steps to prevent abduction of children and ensure that those suspected of criminal responsibility face justice in fair trials and rescue the hundreds of children who remain in captivity,” Ojigho said in the report.
The report noted that “The recent upsurge in abductions is also leading to prolonged shutdowns of schools. As a result, affected regions have seen a decline in school enrollment and attendance, as well as a rise in child marriage and pregnancies of school-age girls.”
It added that, “Of the more than 1,500 school children who have been abducted in Northern Nigeria since the Chibok attack on April 14, 2014, at least 120 students remain in captivity. They are mostly schoolgirls, and their fate remains unknown.
“Of the 276 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok by Boko Haram, 109 are still unaccounted for. Of 102 students who were kidnapped from the Federal Government College in Birnin Yauri, nine are still being held by their captors. One of the 121 students abducted from Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State remains in captivity.
“Five of the 19 students abducted from Greenfield University were brutally murdered, while one of the 333 students kidnapped in Kankara was also killed. Five of the 276 students kidnapped in Dapchi were killed, while one student, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity. Five of the 136 school children kidnapped from Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina have also been killed.
“One returnee, who was interviewed lamented the stigmatization she has suffered in her local community after returning. ‘They call us Boko Haram wives and our children are not even allowed to mingle with other kids in the village.”
According to the report, “Another said: “I am happy to be back home, but it’s been difficult with no financial support. The government promised to help us, but we are still waiting for them. I just want to go back to school and continue with my studies. I wish the government will fulfill their promise to help us.”
Amnesty International in the report interviewed seven parents of schoolchildren, who remain in captivity, who described their ordeal as traumatizing and frustrating.
The report said: “A mother of some of the Chibok girls still in captivity said: ‘We sent our children to school, but they are neither in school nor at home. I don’t know if I’m going to see my daughters again. The trauma of not knowing where my children are is silently killing me. I am socially and psychologically degenerating.
“Another mother said: ‘It does not appear that the government is on top of the matter, and I am not hopeful that I might reunite with my daughter someday. I’m already getting tired of following up with the authorities. Also, community support and sympathy are declining every day. I’m hopeless! I’m hopeless.”
Parents whose children are still in school, according to the report, “Felt constant fear every day that their children go to school that abductors will return to abduct their children. Similarly, parents whose children are due to being studying face the dilemma of whether or not to enroll them. If they do, they fear their children may not return home.”
The report said: “A father of three children in Jangebe town said: ‘I’m confused right now as I speak to you. My friends and I have been contemplating whether we should enroll our kids in school or not. We fear that they might be carted away by bandits. In fact, in most of our neighboring communities, the schools are closed for fear of attacks.”