West & Central Africa

Nigerian government in Christmas publicity stunt over Chibok girls

In a huge publicity stunt, the Nigerian government sent 20 of the released Chibok girls home to Chibok for Christmas. The parents were however disappointed and traumatized by the refusal of the security agencies to let the girls go to their individual families and homes. The girls were crammed in the house of one of the legislators in Chibok where their parents met them, but amidst the jubilation and excitement was the shock that the girls can only meet their parents and siblings amidst tight security in public.

The girls were not allowed to go to Christmas church service on Sunday. “I can’t believe my daughter has come this close to home but can’t come home,” said one father to the BBC. “There’s no point bringing them to Chibok only to be locked in another prison. They couldn’t even go to church on Christmas Day.”

“I snapped picture of myself and my daughter but the security guys came and grabbed me by shoulder and snatched the phone from my hands and told me to delete all the picture I took. I told him I’m taking a picture with my daughter who was away for more than two years. He said to me that’s not his business, he deleted all the pictures including other pictures that were not taken there,” Another parents protested.

One mother said: “I can’t believe my eyes that now my daughter cannot come home. How can I be happy when they don’t have freedom?”

“In terms of a Christmas family reunion, this has got to rank amongst the world’s most spectacular failed parties,” Emmanuel Ogebe, a human rights activist, told The Associated Press by phone from his base in Washington. “The Grinch, or in this case the government, stole their Christmas this time. Not the terrorists.”

A public affairs analyst told Global Christian News that the Chibok girls “have become the prized possession of President Muhammadu Buhari in the campaign against Boko Haram and he wants to keep them within his sight. When you consider that many other women and girls were also released and many are either wallowing in large IDP camps or have to find their own way to a desperate lifestyle, you wonder why he is interested in these Christian girls, being a hard core Muslim.”

“This also adds to the speculations that since the President has handed over the care of the girls to the Murtala
Mohammed Foundation, an NGO owned by the daughter of the former military dictator Murtala Mohammed and a Muslim, there is more that meets the eye,” the analyst added.

Added to the confusion was the lack of adequate information and arrangement by the authorities to prepare the parents and the rest of community for the arrival of the girls. The parents of the other Chibok school girls still in captivity “all came out having heard that the released were coming home, they trooped out to the legislator’s house just to discover that their daughter were not there. The emotions and tears were uncontrollable,” a member of the Chibok community told Global Christian News.

In a statement, Kashim Shettima, the Borno state governor said the armed security around the girls would remain through Christmas till the girls returned to Abuja in January after the New Year Holiday.