Nigerian Citizens Deserve Protection: Reflections on the Student Abductions

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by Sané Dube

A fortnight ago armed gun men entered a school in Chibok in North-Eastern Nigeria in the middle of the night and abducted over 230 girls. The gun men were members of Boko Haram, an extremist group waging a vicious campaign of terror in the name of religion on Nigerians. The girls were students chasing the dream of the brighter future promised by an education. More importantly, they were and still are someone’s daughter, sister, niece, friend- in short, deserving of recognition, respect care and protection.

Initial reports grossly underestimated the number of missing students, reporting slightly over 100 abducted girls. The Nigerian military issued a report the day after the abduction, stating they had rescued most of the girls. The world breathed a collective sigh of relief; resources were being mobilized to bring the girls home safely. Or so we thought.

We were wrong. The military retracted their earlier statement, acknowledging that they hadn't rescued any of the missing girls and that the number of missing students was significantly higher than initially reported. In fact, more than 230 students had been taken. Once again Nigerians and onlookers waited in anticipation; surely a large scale response and intervention would be prioritized and implemented to bring the girls back home to their families and safety as soon as possible?

We waited, we watched and in the following days we were astounded and disappointed by the Nigerian governments’ silence and slow response.

Over two weeks have passed since the students were taken from Chibok. The latest reports say the girls are being sold into enslavement for paltry amounts.

Yesterday Nigerians across the country marched in protest. They delivered petitions to government officials; they wept for their daughters and they were outraged by the situation. The world shared their grief and outrage at what has so far been a grossly inadequate and detrimentally slow response.

The last two weeks have exposed ugly truths that Nigerians, Africans at home and abroad and indeed our global community must acknowledge and address. The first relates to the failures of our governments. Why are our governments failing to adequately respond to the needs of the very people they are elected to serve? The Nigerian government’s response has been thus far vague and inadequate. Similarly, Africa’s leaders have maintained deafening silence in the face of the crisis. We are also forced to ask why the world is seemingly indifferent to the fate of these 230 missing girls. The escalating situation in Northern Nigeria extends beyond Nigeria’s borders. The actions of Boko Haram are linked to issues we are grappling with on the global stage.

Since 2009 Boko Haram have escalated their attacks, killing over 1,500 people and threatening long term safety and security in Nigeria. The government of Nigeria faces a daunting task in stabilizing the region and addressing the long term impact of current events. Having said that, it is not unreasonable to expect governments to protect the citizens of the countries they govern. After all, isn't this why we elect government officials?

Secondly, the abduction highlight how far we still have to go in addressing Women’s Rights and Gender Inequality. The abducted students join millions of women who experience terrible acts of sexual and gender based violence, carried out in the name of culture and religion. Boko Haram’s abduction and enslavement of these girls must be contextualized as part of a larger discussion about the gender inequalities and the diminishing rights of women.

This is a difficult period for Nigeria. It raises important question about governance and accountability. Nigerians deserve a government response that takes these factors into account and effectively responds to issues on the ground. The same can be said for our leaders on the global stage.

Photo: AP

Sané Dube was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. In her work she explores themes of queer identity, women’s rights and immigration. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada.

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