Some Chibok girls refused to be freed – Negotiator

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (C) sitting among the 82 rescued Chibok girls during a reception ceremony at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, on May 7, 2017. PHOTO: TWITTER/BASHIR AHMAD

Some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped from their school’s hostel on April 14, 2014, by Boko Haram insurgents refused to leave their abductors Saturday when 82 of them were freed, a negotiator told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Some girls refused to return…I have never talked to one of the girls about their reasons,” said lawyer and mediator Zannah Mustapha who was part of the team that facilitated the release of the 82. “As a mediator, it is not part of my mandate to force them [to return home].”

Eighty-two girls, who were part of the 276 kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School, in Chibok, Borno State, were freed last Saturday in a prisoner swap deal after spending more than three years with their abductors.

Fifty-seven of the original 276 kidnapped girls had escaped on that fateful October night three years ago as they were been taken away, while three others were found or rescued by the military.

Twenty-one girls were freed on October 13, 2016, after the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross brokered a deal between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government.

There is, however, a possibility a number of the girls may have developed Stockholm syndrome having stayed with the insurgents for more than three years or may not want to return to their former lives due to fear or shame, psychologist Fatima Akilu said.

Akilu heads Neem Foundation, a non-profit group aimed at countering extremism in Nigeria.

“They develop Stockholm syndrome, identify with captors and want to remain,” Akilu told Reuters. “Some are afraid of what to expect, the unknown. We don’t know how much influence their husbands have in coercing them not to go back,” added Akilu.

However, the Nigerian government has vowed to prioritise the welfare of the released girls and other victims of Boko Haram’s campaign of terror in the Northeast.

“When you speak of the budget of Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE) and Borno state and the other initiatives in the Northeast, I think we have to take a second look on all of these issues,” Nigeria’s acting president Yemi Osinbajo told a visiting delegation of Borno State elders. The State is among those traumatised by the insurgents.

Osinbajo acknowledged that the government’s recovery plan was inadequate but said the government would prioritise some aspects of it.

“We must do everything that it takes to make sure that we hold ourselves to account for these children. That in my view is the whole essence of leadership,” he said.


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