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3 Oct 2017

70 Days in Boko Haram Captivity, Have UNIMAID Lecturers Been Forgotten?

Here's an analysis of the four lecturers of the University of Maiduguri who were kidnapped some months ago, and have been in Boko Haram's captivity for 70 days.
The abducted lecturers
Boko Haram, the dreaded insurgent group, has used kidnapping as one of its atrocious instruments of war since 2009.

However, the sect gained opprobrious notoriety for the crime of Kidnapping when it abducted 276 schoolgirls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, on April 14, 2014.

The government of Goodluck Jonathan dilly-dallied in responding to the abduction. There were speculations in the circuit of power that the incident was an attempt by some forces in the north to dent the government. So, the government played possum.

Owing to the government’s cold silence and insouciance, a group of women led by Oby Ezekwesili, former education minister, mobilised other women for a protest to demand the rescue of the girls in May 2014.

The protest spiralled, gaining momentum and global attention. The BringBackOurGirls movement was now born.

Owing to the group’s pertinacious resolve to ratchet up pressure on the government for the rescue of the abductees, about 106 Chibok girls have been released in a prison-swap deal with Boko Haram since October 2016.

The same cannot be said for four lecturers of the University of Maiduguri who have been in Boko Haram’s captivity for 70 days.

WHEN BOKO HARAM STRUCK ‘THE IVORY TOWER’

On July 25, a group of geologists and technologists from the University of Maiduguri were ambushed by Boko Haram insurgents at Magumeri area of Borno state. The contingent was on a “national assignment” – exploring for oil in Lake Chad. They had collected soil samples and were on their way back to town when the insurgents struck.

According to reports, about 12 soldiers, who escorted the academics, were killed. Some staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on the team were killed in the brutal ambush; some academics were killed while four others were kidnapped.

The army had claimed it rescued some persons among the oil exploration party, but it later recanted and apologised for misinforming the public.

BOKO HARAM HOLDS LECTURERS AS TROPHY

On July 28, Boko Haram released a video of some of the kidnapped lecturers. Three persons appeared in the video. One was Yusuf Solomon, a senior lecturer at the geology department of UNIMAID, another was Ibrahim Yusuf; lecturer in the same department, and the third was Haruna, a driver attached to the university.

Solomon, who spoke in the video, appealed to the federal government, the government of Borno state, the university community, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the media to help in their rescue. He said their captors promised to release them unscathed if their (Boko Haram) demands were met.

This abduction is pitiable considering the fact that the academics were on a government-sanctioned assignment, but sadly it has failed to gain any form of traction or evoke mass sympathy and “hysteria”.

KIDNAPPED LECTURER PENS LETTER TO WIFE BEGGING FOR RESCUE

On September 4, forty-two days in the wilderness, Solomon wrote a letter to his wife, Hannatu – one to which he cannot get a reply – appealing again for the rescue of him and his colleagues.

He groaned that after more than a month in captivity the government had not moved its hand to rescue them. He said the lethargic response of the government was putting their lives at risk.

He wrote: “I want to emphasise that delay in getting our freedom poses risk to our dear lives. We never expected we would spend over 42 days (as at 4 September) in captivity because the project has presidential orders to explore hydrocarbon in the (Lake) Chad Basin”.

“The government should please continue negotiating with the present contact given to them by the University of Maiduguri as a means of contacting soldiers of Khalifa under the leadership of Abu Mus’ab Albarnawi. We plead with the government to treat our freedom with all sense of urgency and sympathy so that that we can be reunited with our families. The use of force is a serious threat to our lives.”

Sadly, days after the celebration of the nation’s 57th independence anniversary, the lecturers are yet to celebrate their freedom from Boko Haram.

-TheCable

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