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Some of the 21 released Chibok girls dancing for joy

Opinion: Keeping hope alive for Chibok girls By Temilade Aruya

Some of the 21 released Chibok girls dancing for joy
Some of the 21 released Chibok girls dancing for joy

There was a huge sigh of relief across the country and, indeed, beyond, as 21 out of the over 200 Chibok girls that were abducted from their school, Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, Borno State, were released by their captors – the Boko Haram sect.
After series of unsuccessful negotiations between the Federal Government and the sect, a breakthrough was finally recorded as 21 out of the girls, who had been in captivity for two years, were released. It was, without a doubt, an emotionally charged atmosphere as family members and loved ones waited anxiously for the arrival of the fortunate 21 girls.
After two years of waiting, longing, pains, anguish, expectations and hopelessness, it is understandable that emotion was at an all time high as parents and loved ones waited to catch a glimpse of the lucky returning girls. Suddenly, especially for some of the distraught parents, all the pains and anguish disappeared at the sight of the girls. It was such an emotional reunion to behold as a father virtually carried his daughter on his back, jubilating.
The sight of the girls, emaciated and tattered actually told the story of their troubled months and painted a picture of the hell they might have passed through while in captivity. At the same time, it impresses upon all the prevailing precarious circumstance of the remaining girls in captivity and the danger they are daily exposed to, while driving home the urgency and need for the speedy release of the remaining girls.
The abduction of the Chibok girls was one gory event that held the country by the jugular for a long time. Eventually, the Federal Government was left with little or no option but to negotiate with the sect. Unfortunately, the approach of the previous Government to the issue did not really help matters. Early dilly dally of the previous administration on the matter was partly responsible for the complications experienced. To a large extent, it is not impossible that the approach that there was no abduction in the first instance, played a major part in the way and manner the previous administration handled the whole issue. The successful negotiation is, therefore, no doubt a major breakthrough for the Buhari led administration as it gives a lot of credibility to the current government as a government that can be trusted.
The release of the 21 girls should also be seen as a major victory for all groups and individuals that have been agitating for their release, these past months. In this regards, a special mention must be made of the “Bring Back Our Girls”, BBOG, group for their relentless clamour for the release of the Chibok girls. The group was so unyielding in its demand for the girls’ release that it almost became a ‘nuisance’ to the powers that be. But then, it is to their credit that their efforts eventually paid off.
One good thing about the release of the 21 girls is that it gives hope to Nigerians, and the parents of the remaining girls in particular that the remaining girls will soon be freed. It is, however, important that the federal government, all agencies of government concerned and all major stakeholders such as the BBOG group must not rest on their oars in ensuring that this hope is not in any way dashed.
For the girls that were fortunate to be released, Government must do all within its powers to ensure their well being and up keep. Good enough, President Buhari was recently quoted to have assured that the returning girls would be given the best that can be obtained in any part of the world. He must keep his words. The journey to recovery is still far ahead and it begins with a step. These girls have gone through physical, psychological, emotional and sexual trauma which will take time, patience and resources to heal.
Therefore, Government must be committed to seeing their rehabilitation through to the end. The families and parents of the girls equally require the assistance of the Government in every possible and practical way. It is also important, that the process of recovery is not hijacked by charlatans and unscrupulous elements to exploit and divert resources meant for the welfare of the girls, as was in the case of internally displaced persons (IDP) in IDP camps in the North Eastern parts of the country. This must not be another wild goose chase; Government must see to it that it fulfills all its promises to the girls and their families by ensuring the full rehabilitation and reintegration of the girls back to society.
While the Federal Government continues to negotiate for the release of the remaining girls, all hands must be on deck to support the Government in that direction. Nothing must be done to jeopardize the process. Government must also sustain negotiations with the fraction of the Boko Haram sect that is in custody of the girls.
Perhaps, more importantly, never must such a gory incidence be allowed to happen in our nation again. Everything must be done by the federal government to ensure the security of lives and properties of Nigerians in any part of the country. This is a primary responsibility of governments across the world. In particular, the safety of children and teenagers across the country must not in any way be compromised, for any reason.
Thus, more should be done concerning the safety of students in all schools across the country. Security should be beefed up within school premises, including tertiary institutions, to prevent further ill-treatment and abduction of students. Schools should empower their students with safety tips and education by putting in place a well structured safety plan which will involve yearly emergency drills and review. Parents and guardians should also equip their wards with necessary information and collaborate with their schools on agreed safety measures and plans.
On a final note, the Chibok girls’ nightmare should never be experienced again in the history of this country. A threat to our children is a threat to our existence and future. Meanwhile, despite the release of the 21 girls, it is still not yet uhuru for there can be no respite for us as a nation until the entire girls are safely reunited with their families. We must keep the hope alive for our girls!

Aruya is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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