By Masara Kim

A South Florida, USA Public Radio and Television website, published a feature by Kierran Petersen, on April 17, 2016 tagged “Getting the Chibok girls home is one thing. Knowing what to do with them once they get there is another.”
The write-up focused on the likely challenges of reintegration facing the abducted girls should they be rescued. This according to the report is sequel to the fact that young girls, “many of whom are returning with children born out of rape face unique and often times more difficult challenges when it comes to reintegration than boys.” Their children the report says are constant reminder of their link to the terrorist group.
This and many more difficult questions begging for answers had The Light Bearer recently visiting Chibok town in northeast Borno State on a fact finding mission. Some parents of the girls interviewed during the mission appeared to be more concerned with the survival of their girls than anything else. Therefore, the question of reintegration might not be an issue as the myriad of other salient issues confronting the Chibok people.
Some Chibok parents carrying pictures of their
abducted girls recovered by the FG: Photo by Masara Kim
Maslow's hierarchy of needs – physiological, safety, belongingness, self-esteem and self-actualization highlights requirements crucial for human survival and effectiveness. But according to the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Chibok Local Government Area, Pastor Philip Madu, dozens of people have been killed on their farms by Boko Haram while trying to make a living.
“They can’t do anything outside farming. But if they go there (farms), these people (Boko Haram) will shoot them,” he said.

‘Limited Farming Distance and Hours’

The establishment of a Military Brigade in the community has brought relief, but due to shortage of equipment and manpower, the military there have designate limited distances and periods within which farming activities can take place. Anything beyond those hours or areas is not their responsibility.
However, the fertile lands that require little or no fertilizer for yield are the farthest which are unguarded. Since government and humanitarian service providers mostly only assist in the area of food supply, any of such needs as clothing, healthcare, toiletries, school fees and among others, farm inputs like fertilizer have to be provided by the people themselves, which in most cases they can’t afford.
That not only leaves them with unfulfilled psychological and safety needs which include physical security, but also needs of social belongingness. This is because despite the international uproar about the community, not much has reached the people in terms of assistance.

‘Nobody has assisted us…even BBOG’

Pastor Madu said, “It is like we are a forgotten people in Chibok. Since these things started, if not one Rev. Titus Bona of Barnabas Foundation that has come to assist just the parents of the abducted girls, and some assistance we got from United Nations, nobody has come to assist us.”
Even the Bring Back Our Girls group has not given any assistance to the affected parents aside the campaign for the release of the girls. Secretary of the affected parents’ movement, Lawan Zana said, “We thank God for all their support in advocating for the release of our girls. But as Secretary of this movement, there is no incentive that BringBackOurGirls has given us as parents. For our children in Abuja in the movement, we thank them for the support but if there is anything that they have given us, I don’t know of it.”

Deadly access road

Their woes are further compounded by the lack of an access road. Not until recently, the 34-km Chibok- Nbalala-Damboa was never awarded. As at March 2017, the road awarded to Cumex Nigeria Ltd was still at the clearing stage. The State’s Commissioner for Works, Alhaji Adamu Lawan, was however quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as saying the project was to be completed in 90 days.
The Chibok- Nbalala-Damboa road is the shortest route to the state capital or any safer city nearby. Nevertheless, between Maiduguri and Damboa, the road is bordered on one side by the deadly Sambisa forest which is nicknamed the operation theatre of the Boko Haram.
Travelers going to or out of the area have to converge at designated points everyday to be escorted in a mass convoy movement by heavily armed military personnel. This is done to ensure the safety of travelers along the road which does not however guarantee absolute security. A soldier in Chibok said, “Even when we are heavily armed, they are not afraid.”

Ambush on travelers

Two days before The Light Bearer’s visit, travelers were ambushed in the military convoy with one civilian casualty recorded. During rainy seasons, the shrubs in the bushes grow taller, providing the insurgents with suitable covers.
Expended bullet shells on the road to Chibok: Photo by Masara Kim
According to another soldier in Maiduguri, the insurgents “erect small shelters under the shrubs such that even a fighter jet cannot detect them”. The soldiers escorting travelers along the road therefore have to keep firing gunshots at various points to scare off the insurgents.
Any vehicle that breaks down due to mechanical fault or the puncturing of a tyre which is usually by bullet shells scattered along the road must be abandoned for another day. This is because if it cannot be quickly fixed before the last military escorts vehicle passes, chances are that the owner would be attacked as the Boko Haram members often go after such vehicles when the troops are gone.
That experience alone is enough to disconnect the people from the outside world. Aside the fear of going in or out of the town, many people do not even believe Chibok exists, neither does its story. That may have added to the travails of the people there. “I am not happy that Christians are saying this thing is a lie. When you look at the population of the Chibok people, we are 95% Christians and I doubt if Christians can tell lies about our daughters,” he stated.

Government’s rebuilding programme

Chibok just as many of the communities in Southern Borno have not witnessed any of the government’s reconstruction program. The state government was in 2016 reported to have reconstructed about 11 Christian worship centers in Maiduguri.
Children fetching water from
a well shared with cattle near Chibok: Photo by Masara Kim
Only Dalori and a few other remote towns and villages which have been worse hit by Boko Haram have benefitted from the rebuilding program. An international NGO was however recently launched under the hashtag #EmpowerBorno to mobilize funds for the reconstruction of destroyed villages to fast track the return of the thousands of displaced persons in the state.
The concern however is likely not about the reconstruction but the safety. Nigeria’s Acting President, Yemi Osibanjo had in his 2017 Democracy Day broadcast claimed that Boko Haram had been defeated in the northeast. Military sources in the region however say the JTF is under-equip to execute the fight against the group. They even accused some of their top officers as well as politicians from the northeast of frustrating the fight.