Journalists and members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) converged in Abuja Saturday to discuss the media coverage of 276 Chibok girls that were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in 2014.
Titled the “Media Screening of Nine Years Life after Chibok Abduction,” the programme was hosted by Women Radio.
Nine years after the abduction of the students of the Government Girls College, Chibok, Women Radio visited Borno State and spoke to survivors, parents and siblings of the abductees.
In a documentary presented at the programme, parents of some of the students recalled with nostalgia the “memories and short time” spent with their children before the tragic event on the night of 14 April 2014.
The parents said they are “hoping to reunite with their children” in the near future. Most of the parents said they are living in anguish, knowing that their children are still in the hands of “ruthless individuals who subject their loved ones to chilling brutalities.”
They also appealed to outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari and President-elect Bola Tinubu, to prioritize the release of the students who are still held in captivity.
At least 98 of the 276 abducted school girls are believed to still be in captivity. The Nigerian state has secured the release of about 180 of the schoolgirls over the years through “negotiation and possible ransom payment.”
Panellists who spoke at the event said the role the media played in the coverage of the Chibok girls abduction cannot be undermined. They recalled how the media put pressure on the government to bring back the abducted Chibok girls using persuasive reporting, jingles, features, documentaries etc.
A broadcast journalist, Adaora Onyechere, said the media has done well in its assignment despite limitations in getting information from the government and security agents. Ms Onyechere said the media can change how it is framing the story to demand accountability because that is its “constitutional responsibility.”
On his part, Murtala Abdullahi, a journalist with HumanAngle said the Chibok abduction is a true reflection of the Nigerian state. “We don’t look after vulnerable people,” he said, adding that the “government doesn’t prioritize the welfare and security of the citizens.”
He added that the media needs to do more to spotlight issues of the Chibok girls and other students that were abducted.
In her comments, Bukky Shonibare, a lawyer and expert on peace and security, said the media has a duty to set an agenda for society and hold power accountable. She believes that if the media upholds this function effectively, the Chibok girls will remain on the front burner.
Ms Shonibare said Nigerian authorities no longer communicate with the parents of Chibok girls who are still being held by Boko haram.
Hamzat Lawal, an activist and founder of Connected Development, said the Chibok girls abduction will “forever remain sad.”
He said the event of the Chibok abduction and other tragic events happening in the country is why trust is being eroded. “There is a lack of trust between the government and the people,” Mr Lawal said, adding that schools were “meant to be a safe place.”
Mr Lawal added there is a “renewed” opportunity now with a new government coming in at the end of this month. He also hopes that the Vice-president elect, Kashim Shettima, who was Borno governor during the abduction, will use his influence to ensure that the remaining Chibok girls are released.
In her submission, Gloria Puldu, the executive director of the Leah Sharibu Foundation, said the government has not given much importance to the issue. She said the federal and state government have a role to play in protecting the lives of the citizens.
She recalled that after the abduction of Leah Sharibu in Yobe, the Yobe state governor has not visited her family up till today. Ms Puldu said five years later, the federal government only sent Minister of Information Lai Mohammed and Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, to visit the family of Leah Sharibu.
Ms Puldu concluded that the “media has done better than any other stakeholder since the abduction of these children.”
Since the Chibok school girls were abducted by Boko Haram, a plethora of schools have been targeted, with girls being abducted, raped, killed or forced into “marriages”. According to Amnesty International, the Nigerian authorities have not carried out a single credible investigation into the security failures that left children vulnerable to the atrocities committed by Boko Haram and other gunmen.
The country has witnessed at least 11 cases of kidnapping of pupils and students from their schools since 2014.
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