Before the Christmas holiday, Nigerian authorities reported that 21 of 276 Chibok girls had been released by the Boko Haram. But nearly 1,000 days later, many of the girls have not returned to their families.
New York-based activist, Evon Idahosa, an advocate at the Pathfinders Social Justice Initiative, a public justice organization in New York and Nigeria, said some of the girls are being held by the government.
“When we envision freedom for girls who have been in captivity for so long, in my mind I envision total and complete freedom,” said Idahosa, who returned Thursday, Jan. 5, from Lagos, Nigeria. “Not a second victimization by the government. They need to start to rebuild their lives…[and] create some sort of normalcy.”
An editor’s note on CNN states that a government source said, “The soldiers are being overprotective and probably acting out of exaggerated fear. They are probably not familiar with the terrain and are following strict orders to make sure nothing happens to these girls again.”
While in Nigeria last month, Idahosa spoke to parents who have not seen their children in approximately three years. With only a few girls found, Idahosa said, families are “vacillating between a sense of hope and hopelessness.”
“It doesn’t seem like the Nigerian government is doing everything they possibly can,” Idahosa said.
According to Idahosa, the families of the Chibok girls are suffering from high blood pressure and strokes or are stressed by displacement.
Approximately 50 protesters from the Bring Back Our Girls Movement marched in the snow from a synagogue on the Upper West Side in Manhattan to the Islamic Cultural Center. One protester, Laura Limuli of Park Slope, Brooklyn, wore a red sign that read, “Bring Back Nigeria’s Abducted 195 Girls.” Limuli, who is also a coordinator for the Brooklyn Coalition of Darfur and Marginalized Sudan, said many residents were in the dark about the movement and assumed the missing girls were rescued.
In the evening, protesters joined a vigil at the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, which was attended by New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. At the vigil, Haitian-American Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo said they have proposed resolutions to the City Council to aid the Chibok girls. The council often denounces these initiatives, however.
In an interview with the AmNews, Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, known as the professor of the #Bring Back Our Girls Movement, said the U.N. should expand their efforts to help the missing girls.
“I am so angry,” Olufunke said. “It is like the Nigerian government believes people are disposable.”
The activists are unsatisfied with the U.N.’s response. In a statement from April 2016, the United Nations Population Fund said it will continue to offer psychosocial, reproductive health care and medical support to the released Chibok girls.
In an email sent to the AmNews, an official from the UNFPA’s communications office said they can’t “address comments by the activists about the overall U.N. response.” The UNFPA directed inquiries to the office of the representative for the U.N. secretary-general.