Remember the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls? Yeah, that happened


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Courtesy of OpenStreetMap

Back in April I restarted this blog with a new focus on international politics and elections. One of the first few stories I blogged about was the kidnapping of a large number of Nigerian girls on April 14th from a school in Chibok, which is part of Borno state (you can see it in the map above). The ‘people’ who did it where Boko Haram – a terrorist group based mostly in the north east who believe ‘western education is sinful’ and wish to establish an Islamic state (yes, they have recognised the one covering parts of Iraq and Syria).

In July, 60 to 70 girls were spotted in a field by US planes. This followed a similar incident where 40 were seen in another field. In both situations, the girls were moved quickly, so they haven’t been rescued.

Some have escaped since the initial abduction, but it’s hard to get accurate numbers. I mentioned in a previous post how there has been a long list of different figures. Apparently, school records have been destroyed. There should be other ways of finding what is needed though. I have said before, how can you mount an effective rescue when you don’t know who needs to be rescued?

Social media campaigns were very noticeable initially. The Bring Back Our Girls movement (here and here) was supported by a number of people, including Michelle Obama and David Cameron. That seems to have disappeared from the limelight though. The further away from the event you get, it seems that the organisers care less.

Other nations have helped. The United States sent 16 military experts. There were also offers of assistance from the likes of China, France and Israel (briefly covered the US assistance in this post). The following are the words of Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council:

“We are advising on issues of survivor support, humanitarian assistance, criminal investigations, intelligence and strategic communications. All the while, we recognize that this is a Nigerian-led effort.”

That’s produced no meaningful results at all, other than the aforementioned (and temporarily accurate) images. The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, also believes that the US hasn’t been any help.

It is a common principle with governments that they do not negotiate with terrorists. That is also the case here, but third parties are doing the job. They must have been given the green light by the government though. Having said that, we don’t know many specifics about what is being said. What we do know is that a prisoner swap isn’t an option, although it has been suggested by some.

“We don’t exchange innocent people for criminals. That is not in the cards”

Also, it says a lot when the government led by President Jonathan needs to hire a PR firm to help deal with this situation.

Corruption and ineffectiveness lead to nowhere

One of the posts I’ve done about the schoolgirls included news that they had been ‘rescued’. That was based on announcements from Nigerian officials – more specifically, Major General Chris Olukolade (the Director of Defence Information). I turned out that information was wrong and he had fooled many news organisation around the world. He had also lost their trust quickly. More of us now knew that the Nigerian government cannot always be trusted with the facts.

There’s also the governmental corruption. For example, 73% of people believe the parliament/legislature is corrupt or extremely corrupt. 94% of people feel that way about the political parties as well.

The domestic forces involved in the rescuing of the girls and apprehending the Boko Haram members who caused this really haven’t achieved a lot so far, despite all the help from abroad. Why is this? Well, the government forces are poorly resourced – particularly in the north-east region. How can they be effective if they are not given the money and equipment to do the job properly and protect innocent citizens from terrorists?

I mentioned corruption. In 2013, 81% of people reported paying a bribe to the police and 24% doing the same to the judiciary. 92% felt the police were corrupt or extremely corrupt. 66% felt the same way about the judiciary and 45% felt that about the military. 85% feel that the amount of corruption has increased.

The Global Competitiveness Index measures a number of things. In 2013/14, they were ranked 120/148. In comparison to last year, they have gone down 5 places, even though only 4 countries have been added. In terms of ‘public trust in politicians’, they rank 121/148. For ‘irregular payments and bribes’, they are 135/148. For ‘Organised crime’, they are 136/148. There are also numerous issues with corruption and crime in business, but that’s besides the point.

Clearly, the corruption is holding them back. The refusal to invest in what is necessary doesn’t help either.

Finally…

We live in an era of 24 hour news. You can get updated on events whenever you want. This is great, but sometimes the news organisations feel there isn’t anything worth covering and they repeat some events ad nauseum.

It is true that not all the girls have been recovered. It’s true that the leaders of Boko Haram haven’t been arrested. However, it’s still worth reporting. There are things that have happened.

Why don’t the news organisations (more frequently) cover the US planes spotting the girls? Why isn’t there more criticism of the campaigns (social media based or otherwise) fizzling out and not doing their job of keeping people aware of events. Why isn’t there more criticism on the supreme ineffectiveness of much of the assistance given to Nigeria by other nations. Then there’s the failings of the government when it’s only a few month away from an election.

If you search for ‘Chibok Girls‘, ‘nigerian schoolgirls‘ or ‘Bring Back Our Girls‘ on Google, much of the news is from July or earlier.

It might have happened a while ago, but the Nigerian schoolgirls deserve to live longer in the memories of people around the world.

So, what do you think?

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