About 276 schoolgirls of Chibok were abducted on the night of the 14th of April, 2014, and in over seven years, over 100 of them remain missing.
Between the hours of the night of 14th April 201 and 15th April 2014, in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, a number of 276 (mostly Christian) female students between the ages of 16 and, 18 were kidnapped by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram from the Government Girls Secondary School.
Prior to the Boko Haram raid, the school had been closed for four weeks due to deteriorating security conditions, but the girls were in attendance in order to take final exams in physics.
About 57 of the schoolgirls escaped immediately following the incident by jumping from the trucks on which they were being transported, and over time, others have been rescued by the Nigerian Armed Forces on different occasions.
Amina Ali, one of the missing girls, was found in May 2016. She claimed that the remaining girls were still alive and in captivity, but that six had died. As of 14 April 2021, seven years after the initial kidnapping, over 100 of the girls remain missing.
Boko Haram has used the girls as negotiating pawns in prisoner exchanges, offering to release some girls in exchange for some of their captured commanders who have been put in jail.
The girls kidnapped in Chibok in 2014 are only a small percentage of the total number of people abducted by the Boko Haram group. It was estimated in 2015 by Amnesty International, that a total of at least 2,000 women and girls- many of whom had been forced into sexual slavery- had been abducted by the terrorist group since 2014.
THE ABDUCTION OF THE CHIBOK SCHOOLGIRLS
On the night of 14 April 2014, members of the Boko Haram terrorist group attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, a majority Christian village. A few hours prior to the raid, residents in Chibok had received phone calls from neighboring villages warning them of the incoming attack, who had witnessed convoys containing armed insurgents driving in the direction of the town.
The kidnappers broke into the school, pretending to be guards. The militants also engaged and subdued approximately 15 soldiers based in Chibok, who were unable to stop the attack as the militants had superior numbers and firepower, and no reinforcements were sent by the Nigerian Military. The attack lasted for about 5 hours, during which some houses in Chibok were also burned down.
It was discovered in a diary written by two of the Chibok girls (Naomi Adamu and Sarah Samuel), that the militants had intended to steal an “engine block” and were initially unsure what to do with the girls. They told the girls to get out and come with them. Some girls were loaded into vehicles and the rest had to walk several miles until other trucks came to take them away, possibly into the Konduga area of the Sambisa Forest, a former nature reserve covering 60,000 km2 where Boko Haram were known to have fortified camps.
An unidentified senior military source believed that the girls may have been split up and placed in different Boko Haram camps, around Lake Chad, the Gorsi mountains and the Sambisa forest.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, local vigilantes and parents searched the Sambisa forest in an attempt to locate and rescue some of the kidnapped girls, however were unsuccessful in finding any of the captives.
The school had been closed for four weeks before to the attack due to deteriorating security conditions, however students from multiple schools and villages were in attendance at the time of the raid to take final exams in Physics.
There were 530 students registered to participate in Senior Secondary Certificate Examination at the Government Girls Secondary School, although it is unclear how many were in attendance at the time of the attack. The children were aged from 16 to 18 years of age and were in their final year of Secondary School.
There was initial confusion over the number of girls kidnapped – whilst parents said that 234 girls were missing, according to the local police approximately 276 children were taken in the attack, of whom 53 had escaped by 2 May. Other reports gave various other figures for the number of kidnapped and missing students.
Amnesty International condemned the Nigerian government, stating that it believed that the Nigerian military had four hours’ advance warning of the kidnapping but failed to send reinforcements to protect the school”. The Nigerian military later confirmed that they had a four-hour advance notice of the attack but stated that their over-extended forces were unable to mobilize reinforcements.
The kidnapping of the Chibok Schoolgirls led to the protests and movement, “#BringBackOurGirls”.
Parents of the kidnapped Chibok Girls and others took to social media to complain about the government’s perceived slow and inadequate response. The news caused international outrage against Boko Haram and the Nigerian government. On 30th April and 1st May 2014, protests demanding greater government action were held in several Nigerian cities.
Most parents, however, were afraid to speak publicly for fear their daughters would be targeted for reprisal. On 3rd and 4th May, protests were held in major Western cities including Los Angeles and London.
Initially, usage of the hashtag came from individuals attempting to raise awareness of the kidnapping. Ibrahim M Abdullahi, a Nigerian lawyer based in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, started the hash tag #BringBackOurGirls in a tweet posted in April 2014 after listening to the former Federal Minister of Education Oby Ezekwesili speak on the kidnappings at an event at Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
It was then adopted by a group of Nigerian activists protesting about the government’s slow response to the kidnapping to tag tweets as they marched down a highway in protest. The hashtag began to trend globally on Twitter by May 2014 as a form of hashtag activism and the story spread rapidly internationally, becoming for a time Twitter’s most tweeted hashtag.
By the 11th of May, 2014, it had attracted 2.3 million tweets and by 2016 it had been retweeted 6.1 million times. An official twitter account for the movement was then set up, with a group of 20-30 people involved in its organization. A $300,000 cash reward was initially offered by the movement to anyone who could help locate or rescue the girls from their kidnappers.
The movement attracted support from several celebrities. Notable participants included Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, Chris Brown, Forest Whitaker, and then First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, who was photographed holding up a sheet of paper with the hashtag to support the movement, and gave a public address on the kidnappings a few days later. Beyoncé had a separate section on her website that was dedicated to the movement.
The movement was criticized by some American conservatives, including Fox News contributor George Will who stated that it was “not intended to have any effect on the real world” and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers who stated that the White House could not base its policy “on what’s trending on Twitter”.
The movement has also been attributed to a change in Boko Haram tactics, and was linked to an increase in gender violence in the group in order to increase their recognition. It has been reported that the international publicity for the Chibok schoolgirls has ironically made it more difficult to free the girls, with a military commander based in Maiduguri stating that Boko Haram viewed the Chibok girls as their “trump card”.
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi
Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.