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Festering Wounds: Chibok, the Culture of Impunity, and the Stain on our Collective Conscience

As we solemnly mark the 10th anniversary of the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction, we are confronted not just with the horror of that day

By Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode

As we solemnly mark the 10th anniversary of the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction, we are confronted not just with the horror of that day but also with a decade shrouded in shame, impunity, and unrelenting injustice. It was April 14, 2014, when 276 innocent schoolgirls were snatched from their school under the cover of darkness, their dreams shattered in an instant. Little did they know that their abduction would not only plunge their families into despair but also unveil a deeper societal wound—a wound festering with neglect, impunity, and indifference.
A decade later, with 91 girls still yet to return, and as we reflect on that fateful day, it is impossible to ignore the haunting reality that similar abductions of school children, involving hundreds of victims, have persisted. The Chibok nightmare was supposed to serve as a clarion call for change, a rallying cry for justice. Yet, the echoes of that tragedy have reverberated through the years, largely unaddressed and often overlooked.

The Chibok abduction did not just expose the barbarity of the perpetrators; it laid bare the systemic failures of those entrusted with protecting our most vulnerable. The pervasive culture of impunity that shielded the abductors of the Chibok girls from facing justice continues to fuel the cycle of violence and fear that grips our nation. It is a cycle that has allowed subsequent abductions to occur, each one serving as a damning indictment of our collective failure to confront the root causes of such atrocities.

Recent revelations, such as the report by the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, detailing the birth of 34 infants from the captivity of the abducted Chibok girls, serve as chilling reminders of the depths of depravity to which the perpetrators descended. The exploitation, sexual assault and forced, imprisonment of young girls are not merely crimes; they are egregious atrocities that demand justice and accountability. Forced marriages in conflict, declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations in Sierra Leone, were perpetrated against many of the abducted girls, both Muslim and Christian, compounding their trauma and suffering. The separation from their families, the violation of their rights, and the assault on their dignity constitute grave injustices that must not go unpunished.

The aftermath of returning Chibok and other school abductees is no less harrowing. Families torn apart, communities fractured, and scars etched deep into the fabric of our society. The heartbreaking reality of Chibok parents entangled in bitter disputes with their daughters and the government over the agency of girls that we left during their most crucial adolescent years in the clutches of terrorists for nearly half their lives, underscores a gross failure in confronting the aftermath of these abductions. Some of the girls, now young mothers, have chosen to remain with their captors, as “wives,” revealing a profound gap in our response to such heinous crimes. This dire situation underscores the absence of an abduction response protocol that prioritizes the safety, well-being, and needs of the abducted women, girls, and their families serving as a painful reminder that our collective failure to address lingering trauma may mark this as one of the darkest chapters in our history.

Yet, amid the despair, there are stories of resilience and courage—stories of Chibok girls who escaped the clutches of their captors and found their way back to their families, as well as stories of those who helped them. Their bravery serves as a beacon of hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
But hope alone is not enough. We must demand accountability—not just from the perpetrators of these heinous crimes but from those who turned a blind eye, and chose silence over justice. Ten years on, we must advocate for legal reforms and a zero-tolerance policy, to ensure that those responsible for such atrocities are brought to justice, no matter how powerful or well-connected they may be.

Moreover, we must foster a culture of accountability within our communities—a culture that values the rights and dignity of every individual. It is a culture that starts with us, with our willingness to speak out against injustice and to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
As we pause to remember the 10th anniversary of the Chibok abductions, let us recommit ourselves to the pursuit of justice, accountability, and a future where such atrocities are relegated to the annals of history. It is a future where every child can pursue their dreams without fear, and where every victim receives the support, they deserve.

Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode
CEO Murtala Muhammed Foundation
April 13, 2024.