On Sunday, 7th May, the Federal Government announced to great fanfare that 82 more of the Chibok young women had been freed by Boko Haram. But like the 21 young women ‘freed’ in October last year, the Federal Government is still holding all the 103 in a DSS facility in Abuja.
The Chibok women earlier released were taken back to Chibok for Christmas, but strict security rules meant they couldn’t go home. They stayed at a local politician’s house and families were invited to visit at different time of the day. The security services were heavy-handed – deleting photographs taken by friends and family.
The 21 women ‘released’ in October are still being detained by the DSS and they have had almost no contact with their parents. Yakubu Nkeki, chair of Chibok Parents’ Association told the BBC, “Every month we pay a visit to them and take their parents too, and they chat to them for almost two or three days before they come back. That is what we did for almost a year now.” The young women have not been given their own phones and their parents only hear from them when the authorities call from blocked numbers.
The most recent group of 82 Chibok women were handed over by Boko Haram on Saturday 6th May. The next day they were flown to Abuja so that they could be photographed with President Buhari. He left for London the same day.
The government clearly thinks that such photo opportunities are more important than the health and welfare of the Chibok young women and their families and friends. The two groups of young women were united at the DSS health facility in Abuja on Saturday, 20th May
Two members of the families of each of the 82 young women ‘released’ two weeks ago have now been driven to Abuja by the government, but it is not clear if the government will also pay for their accommodation (having paid €2million for their release according to the BBC). They eventually arrived in Abuja on Saturday, 20th May, two weeks after their daughters’ ‘release’.
In the first week after the ‘release’ of the 82 young women, Yakubu Nkeki chair of Chibok Parents’ Association, was one of the few people invited to Abuja to see the freed girls and verify their identities. He then returned to Chibok and brought photographs to show their families.
The parents were told to meet in Mbalala, a few miles south of Chibok on Thursday 18th May, to be transported to Abuja in buses, which eventually arrived on Friday morning. Parents (Samual Yaga and his wife, for example) who had made their own way to Abuja were not allowed to meet their daughters.
The parents, family and friends of the 82 young women have had to wait over three years for their release. Negotiations have been going on for at least six months during which time the families had waited anxiously for news of their release. The government have now extended their detention and the worry for their families for at least another two weeks. The families have not even been aloud to talk to the young women by telephone.
The 82 Chibok women have been visited by members of the national assembly, but their parents still have to wait to see their daughters. And who knows when they may be allowed to go back to their villages?
The government is talking about them starting school, but there is no sign of Chibok Government Secondary School being rehabilitated. The BBC says it is a “a mess of crumbling concrete, dusty tumbleweed and overgrown brush.”
“They should not be in the captivity of the government after having been in the captivity of the terrorists,” says campaigner Aisha Yesufu.
by Tina Ndi