The rescuing of the Nigerian schoolgirls (well, most)

The rescuing of the Nigerian schoolgirls (well, most)

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On this blog yesterday, I looked at news about the abduction of over 100 Nigerian schoolgirls. This happened the day after the bombing of a bus station near the nation’s capital, Abuja. Both events were suspected to be the fault of the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram (names translates to ‘Western education is sinful’). I say ‘suspected’ because there was no confirmation from Boko Haram that they were responsible for either event.

Anyway, things have moved on quickly.

I am doing this update because I have seen multiple articles that say all but eight of the schoolgirls have been rescued (this SBS article mentions that the total of missing girls was 129).

Some articles featured a quote from Gordon Brown, who has the interesting title of ‘UN Special Envoy for Education’:

“The threat to children who simply want an education has led to hundreds of deaths in the last three years. Massacres of innocent boys and girls are not uncommon. This year alone, the group’s fighters have killed more than 1,500 civilians, hundreds of them children, in three states in North-east Nigeria.”

The statement went on to blame Boko Haram – the same thing that many others have done right from the point that it happened.

So, was it actually Boko Haram? At the time of typing my last post, there seemed to be no definitive answer, although there was plenty to suggest it could have been them. One thing that I didn’t mention in the last post is that the school is located in the north-east (Borno State, to be specific). That is well known as a hotbed for Boko Haram activity.

Since then, a statement released to the media by Major General Chris Olukolade (Director of Defence Information at the Defence Headquarters – recently promoted from Brigadier General) announced that it was Boko Haram. As they were the ones rescuing the children, I guess that’s correct. The Major General has also announced that one of the terrorists to blame for the abductions had been arrested.

A correction

In my previous post, I made a comment about the huge percentage of the population that is children – using the statistic for the 0-14 range from the CIA World Factbook. At the time, I had no specific detail of how old the schoolgirls were.

Al Jazeera has since reported that the girls were in the 15-18 range. I have no exact demographic information for that age group, but the World Factbook states that 2014 estimates suggest that 19.3% of the population is 15-24. Whilst this is obviously a lower percentage, it still means there are a lot of potential targets for Boko Haram and they should have better protection whilst at school.

More about the military

It was incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan who immediately ordered the military to rescue the girls (see the Al Jazeera story in the previous section). He knew that children were important and it’s important to combat terrorism. He must also have known that failure would be a PR disaster though – particularly bad when it’s relatively close to an election.

This BBC article mentions that President Jonathan had recently replaced the Chiefs of Staff for the Army, Air Force and Navy, as well as Chief of Defence Staff, due to poor handling of the activities of Boko Haram and other Islamic groups in the northern region. The article mentions the bombing, but doesn’t say anything about the schoolgirls. It is safe to assume that their rescue occurred after the new chiefs were put in place. It has be considered good timing and would probably be publicised as good decision making by the President.

Something about poverty

It’s worth briefly saying something about poverty and inequality. The World Bank has comprehensive data about poverty and inequality across the world. By looking at this page, you will see that in 2010, the top 10% of Nigerians had 38.2% of the income share, whilst the bottom 10% had 1.8%. It’s also worth mentioning that the top 20% had an income share of 54%. This is quite startling. Remember that it’s 2014 though and Nigeria recently became the biggest African economy (overtaking South Africa), but many articles suggest they are still nowhere close to a fairer distribution of income.

How does this link to recent events? Well, the south is known as oil-rich and the north is mostly agricultural and is where some of the poorer people with. Most of Boko Haram’s activity is in the north, so you can assume that they are taking advantage of the economic situation, as well as the fact that security may not be at the same level everywhere.


Manuel Fontaine (UNICEF) said the following:

“Such brutal acts of violence are unacceptable. Attacks on schools deny children their right to learn in a safe environment and can rob them of their future. Wherever it takes place, abduction of children is a crime and illegal under international law”

The above is absolutely right. It’s totally understandable that multiple organisations and high profile individuals have come out with their condemnation. Whilst the media coverage has gradually increased since my last post (where I criticised the lack of it), I still think that there would have been more coverage and public outrage if this had taken place somewhere like the United States, or the United Kingdom. As I have previously said, some might find it easier to relate to stories about people with the same nationality as them, but a child is a child. They are not worth more or less if they are in a different country. You have to consider how you would feel as a parent in this situation.

It is obviously great news that so many of the children have been rescued. They can go back to their normal lives, knowing that the military have prevented them from going into a life of slavery that would rob them of their innocence.

So, what do you think?

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