Amnesty International has called out the Nigerian government’s failure to secure the safe release of the Chibok girls, seven years after their abduction by terrorists in the Northeast region of the country.
The human rights organisation in a statement marking the seven-year anniversary of the abduction of the schoolgirls highlighted how the increase in school kidnappings since the incident in Chibok, Borno State in 2014 has forced thousands of children to miss out on education.
A total of 276 schoolgirls were abducted in April 2014 from the Government Secondary School in Chibok. Seven years on, more than a hundred girls remain in Boko Haram captivity, alongside other kidnap victims.
“Further mass kidnappings of schoolchildren in Nigeria have seen hundreds of children killed, raped, forced into “marriages” or forced to join Boko Haram,” Amnesty International lamented.
“This has resulted in hundreds of schools being shut, with disastrous consequences for young people in a region already facing extreme insecurity.”
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International in Nigeria highlighted how the government’s failure to protect school children has led to subsequent attacks on schools in Northern Nigeria, with five school abductions reported between Dec. 2020 and March 2021.
“The Nigerian authorities’ failure to protect schoolchildren from recent attacks clearly shows that no lessons have been learned from the Chibok tragedy,” Ojigho said in a statement issued to mark the seventh year anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls.
“The authorities’ only response to schoolchildren being targeted by insurgents and gunmen is to close schools, which is increasingly putting the right to education at risk.”
“The threat of further attacks has led to the closure of about 600 schools in the region. Whatever authorities are doing to tame this tide, it is not working.”
“The Nigerian authorities risk a lost generation, due to their failure to provide safe schools for children in a region already devastated by Boko Haram atrocities.”
Parents and guardians of the kidnapped school children told Amnesty that their children and wards would not be returning to school due to lack of confidence in the government’s ability to guarantee the children’s safety.
One of the parents said, “the schools are not safe. The government is not trustworthy, and we do not believe them when they say that they would protect our children”.
Others lamented how some students were due to write exams but were unable to due to school closures, with the government making no effort to ensure the schools are secure enough to reopen for the students to return.
School abductions setting back girl-child education
With schools shut down across states in Northern Nigeria, Amnesty reports that there has been a significant rise in cases of child marriages and early pregnancies among girls of school age.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are about 10.5 million out of school children between five and 14 years old in Nigeria.
This figure is expected to increase exponentially unless immediate, stern action is taken on securing schools in the country.
“Since many of my friends were kidnapped in school, my parents decided to give me out in marriage for my own safety,” a 16-year-old schoolgirl told Amnesty.
“It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that no child is left behind. Education is a human right and the government must ensure that all children have access to basic education in an environment free from violence and threats of attacks,” Ojigho emphasised.
The organisation also called for a reaffirmation of commitment in securing the safe release of those still in captivity, including Leah Sharibu, the lone Dapchi schoolgirl who remains with the insurgents.
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