When Boko Haram militants invaded Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, and kidnapped 276 female students from the school hostel on April 14, 2014, it was a new low for the terrorist group.
And this is saying a lot considering that, just a few weeks prior, it had also invaded the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi, Yobe State, and brutally slaughtered fifty-nine students, all boys.
Since 2014, the Chibok abduction saga has gone through more twists and turns than can be fitted into a feature-length movie, a movie that should definitely turn the stomach of the audience.
It has involved escapes, rescues, prisoner swaps and ransom payments, conspiracy theories, alleged rape, indoctrination, new babies, dead parents, and a bagful of grand unfulfilled promises.
However, despite how long it has dragged, five years today, a total of 112 girls remain unaccounted for.
The girls were abducted by the Abubakar Shekau-led Boko Haram faction that was at the height of its powers in 2014 [AFP]
While 57 of the girls escaped before Boko Haram could transport them to their base, then deep in the heart of Sambisa Forest, four others were rescued or escaped after two years, and a total of 103 were released after an agreement with the government. The deal involved a ransom payment and the release of five Boko Haram commanders.
That has left 112 girls still caught in the claws of an Abubakar Shekau-led Boko Haram faction whose powers has been on the wane in the past year while another faction has grown in wings.
How have 112 girls, kidnapped as teenagers, survived five years in the cold, on the very fringes of civilisation, with men who abducted them and stripped away their liberties?
Salomi Pogu, who was found by troops in Gwoza, Borno in January 2018, is the last Chibok girl to have escaped from Boko Haram. Since her return, not much has been heard about the remaining 112 girls.
Salomi Pogu (pictured) was intercepted by military troops in Pulka, a Borno village in January 2018. She was found in the company of her child and another young girl, Jamila Adams [Today]
Their continued stay in captivity has given rise to many theories about their fate with some of them reported, several times, to have died as far back as 2014.
For instance, a week after the abduction, a team of vigilantes claimed that four of the girls were killed and hastily buried for being ‘stubborn and uncooperative’ while they were camped near the village of Ba’ale, an hour’s drive from Chibok.
This claim was never officially acknowledged by the government but Amina Ali Nkeki, who was found by a patrol group in May 2016, disclosed that six of the girls were already dead.
Amina Ali Nkeki was found by a Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) patrol group in May 2016 along with her 4-month-old child named Safiya and a Boko Haram member, Mohammed Hayatu, who described himself as her husband [Presidency]
In a video released by Boko Haram in August 2016, a masked terrorist claimed that some girls died due to air strikes launched by the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) in its bid to hurt the militants. He disclosed that some of the girls also sustained life-threatening injuries and that 40 had been married off to militants.
A December 2017 report by the Wall Street Journal also claimed that 13 of the schoolgirls had died from a range of causes during the time spent in captivity.
“Some were felled by malaria, hunger or a snake bite. The majority died in airstrikes. Among those forcibly married to fighters, at least two died in childbirth,” a source said.
Last year, Ahmad Salkida, a journalist who has accurately reported on a lot of Boko Haram activities, sensationally announced that only 30 of the Chibok girls were still alive according to information he claimed to have received from Boko Haram’s leadership.
He said many of the girls died as a result of crossfire and bombardments of the security forces intent on rescuing them from their captors.
According to him, the 30 girls left alive were split between three different Boko Haram cells with some of them imbibing the doctrines and teachings of the sect and committed to not returning home to their families.
This is consistent with a video that was released by Boko Haram in January 2018 in which some of the Chibok girls said they were never returning home to their parents.
In the 20-minute video, where at least 14 of the girls were filmed, the one that spoke also revealed that they have all been married off to fighters.
In a video that was released last year, the girls said they have all been married off to Boko Haram fighters [Sahara Reporters]
“We are the Chibok girls that you cry for us to return to you. By the grace of Allah, we will not return to you,” she said.
While not much is known about the 112 Chibok girls left in captivity, Dorcas Maida Yakubu, a choir girl when she was abducted, has grown to be one of the most known faces of the 2014 abduction.
Yakubu, the eldest of her parents’ five children, was first thrust into the limelight when she was featured in one of Boko Haram’s proof-of-life videos back in 2016.
In the video, a masked terrorist instructed the girls to appeal to their parents to pressure the government to release Boko Haram members who were in custody in exchange for them.
Dorcas Maida Yakubu first appeared in a proof-of-life video in 2016 [News Express Nigeria]
Yakubu was the only girl allowed to speak and she asked her parents to beg the government to agree to Boko Haram’s demands so that all the Chibok girls could return home.
“Our parents please exercise patience. We are suffering here. There is no kind of suffering we haven’t seen. Our sisters are injured; some have wounds on their heads and bodies.
“Tell the government to give them their people so we can also come to be with you. We are all children and we don’t know what to do. The suffering is too much, please endeavour as we also have exercised patience,” she pleaded in a mix of English and her native Kibaku language.
Yakubu’s dramatic next video appearance months later was one that would distress her parents greatly.
When the government struck a deal with the terrorists to secure the release of 103 girls, 21 in October 2016 and then 82 in May 2017, Yakubu was unlucky to not make the cut.
However, it was later revealed by the presidency that 83 girls were expected for the second batch but one of them elected last-minute to remain with her captors. That girl has been largely rumoured to be Yakubu.
This was further cemented when Boko Haram posted a video in the wake of the 2017 release of hostages, with Yakubu making an appearance to announce she has no intentions of returning home to her parents.
Covered with a black veil over her face and holding an AK-47 rifle, she identified herself, surrounded by three other girls, and said she doesn’t want to return home because her parents “live in the town of unbelievers” [TheCable]
She said, “Our parents are not doing the wish of Allah and we want them to follow us. We don’t want to go back.”
Speaking to Pulse yesterday, Yakubu’s father, Kabu, said his daughter only said those words under duress, confident that she’s eager to return to her family.
“I know that my daughter will not say that because she was the one that was pleading for their release. How can somebody plead for their release and then turn back and say that she’ll not come?
“That is not true because she’s in the custody of terrorists. Whatever they tell her to say, she’ll have to say. They forced her to say that,” he said.
Dorcas Maida Yakubu was 15 when she was abducted by Boko Haram [CNN]
Kabu said that even though the government has tried with the release of some of the girls, it has still failed to properly investigate the girls’ abduction despite promises made to parents by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He further noted that parents who have been speaking to journalists are targeted as the enemy by Boko Haram and the government, alleging that only the girls of those who didn’t speak to the media have been released.
“They take us as the enemy because all those people that didn’t talk, they’ve brought back their girls; but we that used to speak to journalists they’ve kept our girls in captivity up till this time,”he complained.
Gapani Yanga, a sit-out coordinator for the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group, also told Pulse that many parents of the girls left in captivity have been harassed into silence as they fear their children will not be released if they make comments in the media.