During our recent mission to Nigeria, hundreds of schoolgirls were again abducted just as others were abducted during previous missions since October.
Though released, the travesty in Nigeria is unspeakable as the most vulnerable humans have now become recurring prey of a hostage cottage industry fostered by government.
Parents of Chibok schoolgirls, now gone seven years in the world’s longest running mass abduction, watch in horror as hundreds of school kids are taken at will then returned while their own children remain unheard of.
Ironically our mission included commemorating the third anniversary of the abduction of Leah – heroine Christian schoolgirl taken in Dapchi in Feb, 2018 – and negotiating her release.
Our mission also included fact-finding the mystery phone call purportedly from Halima Ali one of the 112 missing Chibok girls.
Findings: Dapchi Abductions re Leah
From the outset, our investigations revealed that the terrorists were in touch with parents and a teacher at Dapchi GSSS.
We received advance intel that the 100 schoolgirls would be released and that Leah the sole non-Muslim was at risk.
The predictability of the turn of events raised concerns about government collusion.
The Dapchi abduction marked the beginning of dubious school kidnappings in Nigeria.
The biggest question now is – why did the government who “successfully“ negotiated the return of the Muslim schoolgirls unable to similarly do so for the solitary Christian schoolgirl left behind for three whole years?
We have made public an offer of a hostage in exchange for Leah and are awaiting a response from her captors. We will continue to reach out to trusted intermediaries and interlocutors on this.
Findings: Chibok abductions re Halima Ali
This year, a surprise call brought hope of more recently escaped Chibok girls. However, the family informed us that nothing more has been heard since January.
Our investigation found that while Mr. Ali Maiyanga admitted that he couldn’t clearly hear his daughter on the phone, her mother, sister and even neighbors were amongst those who spoke to her when news of the exciting call spread.
It is difficult to doubt the veracity of her identity when Mr. Maiyanga’s other family members also spoke to her.
One key question was how the purported daughter still had his phone number after several traumatic years in captivity.
The explanation was that in her current custody with Nigerian security, she had found someone with contacts in her hometown who helped trace her dad’s number.
This explanation sounds plausible and it would be a really cruel hoax for anyone to do this to an innocent parent.
We urge whoever made that call to phone again for clarification. Furthermore we urge any organizations globally who have capacity to trace this mystery call to contact us for the details.
It is disheartening that while we’re laboring with these old cases, fresh abductions were still occurring making Nigeria the school mass kidnapping Mecca of the world.
The combined effect of Boko Haram’s anti-education destruction and the bandit bazaar of kidnappings has made Nigeria one of the most dangerous places for school kids, threatening an increase in our 10 million out of school population.
It is ironic, tragic and horrid that at a time when Nigeria has exported talents likes Amina Mohammed Deputy Secretary General of the UN and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first woman and African head of the World Trade Organization, Nigeria is ransoming kidnapped schoolgirls.
This is particularly sad as Dr. Okonjo-Iweala worked with UK ex-PM Gordon Brown to start a Safe School’s Initiative whose efficacy is clearly invisible under the Buhari regime.
More so we had just edited our Imela Beauty from Terror Ashes short film on the Chibok/Leah story in Nigeria to reflect the spate of abductions only for more to be kidnapped.
The updated short documentary will be released in honor of International Women’s Day, 2021 and Leah, Alice Ngaddah who just marked three years captivity too as well as continuing victims in Nigeria.
As we were told in Nigeria, “there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There isn’t even a tunnel. Just darkness!”
Emmanuel Ogebe is the Special Counsel, Justice for Jos Project and member, US-Nigeria Law Group