104 of the Kidnapped Dapchi Girls Have Been Returned
104 of the 110 kidnapped Nigerian school girls (as well as one boy) were returned to their hometown of Dapchi on March 21st, after spending more than a month in captivity. The children’s return represents a rare high note in Nigeria’s decade long struggle against Boko Haram, which has been marred by corruption.
The government reported that the girls were returned using “back-channel” negotiations with Boko Haram. Experts such as BBC Africa’s security correspondent, Tomi Oladipo, speculate that the government is likely to have given something in return for the girls’ release. But Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, claims that “no ransom was paid.”
Soon after the school girls were returned to their hometown, they were moved to a hospital and then promptly flown to Abuja, the nation’s capital, to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari in his villa. Neither the parents nor the children consented to these movements, the Guardian reported.
All but six of the children have now been returned. Five girls are said to have died either in captivity or during the chaos of the kidnapping. Leah Sharibu, 15, is the only girl still being held in captivity. Her classmates informed her parents that she was kept back because she refused to accept Islam and renounce her Christianity, even when her classmates implored that she pretend to do so.
One parent reportedly told the BBC that extremists had warned them against sending their children to school. Their daughters will be offered psychological counselling before parents face the decision of whether or not to send their children back to school.
This kidnapping was the largest since the 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from Chibok, which drew outrage across the globe and began the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Whereabouts of more than 100 Chibok girls are still unknown.
President Buhari was elected in 2015 largely on the grounds that his administration would strengthen the fight against the lethal terrorist organization, Boko Haram.
Attacks made against civilians have decreased since 2015, but remain a significant blight on the country’s security. In 2016 and 2017, the BBC reported that Boko Haram made 277 attacks killing nearly 2000 Nigerians.
In total, since its beginnings in early 2000, more than ten thousand people have been killed by Boko Haram. The Nigerian government’s response to this epidemic has left many on the international stage wanting. In early 2017, the Nigerian air force accidentally killed at least 70 people, including some members of Red Cross staff, and injured many others in an act the government called a “regrettable operational mistake.”
The admission of guilt shows growth on the part of the government, which in previous years has been accused of looting billions of dollars meant to aid in the fight against Boko Haram. Be that as it may, the government must work harder to reduce corrupt misuse of funds, and further efforts to attain successes like the return of the Dapchi children.