LAGOS, NIGERIA—President Muhammadu Buhari this week announced that Nigeria would investigate the 2014 mass kidnapping of school girls from the northeastern town of Chibok by Boko Haram militants. But advocates for the missing students’ release are skeptical of how much a probe could accomplish nearly two years after they were taken.
The Chibok kidnapping is perhaps the most notorious episode in Boko Haram’s nearly seven-year quest to impose strict Islamic law in the northeast. It brought international attention to Boko Haram and criticism to Nigeria’s government in a way few of the group’s previous atrocities had.
Nearly two years later, the 219 girls held by the group have yet to be found and Boko Haram is far from a spent force: their attacks have forced over 2 million people to flee their homes and have killed more than 20,000, according to United Nations estimates.
Buhari announced on Thursday that the national security adviser would name a panel to investigate the Chibok kidnapping.
The news came on the heels of an unscheduled meeting between Buhari, parents of the missing students, and activists pressing for their release.
“If the investigation is properly done, it would shed more light onto why it happened and ways in which government can ensure such incidents don’t happen again in the nearest future,” said Rotimi Olawole, a spokesman for Bring Back Our Girls, an advocacy group that has been holding demonstrations calling for the students’ rescue.
Some are skeptical
This isn’t the first time Nigeria has announced they would investigate the attack. Former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration announced an investigation weeks after the abductions.
But Manasseh Allen, a Chibok resident who has advocated for the girls’ release, said the investigators commissioned by the Jonathan administration didn’t seem to do much.
“They came to Chibok in a chopper, landed, just greeted the parents … and they are up again,” Allen said. “Aside that one, there was never any form of investigation.”
He was pessimistic about what this new probe could accomplish.
“I don’t see investigation that is almost one year close to date is going to bring out anything,” he said.
Olawole said Bring Back Our Girls had been trying to get a copy of any reports the earlier investigation had produced, but had been unsuccessful thus far.
Some were hopeful that the investigation would turn over new information. Chibok resident Ayuba Alamson says authorities never interviewed him nor many other people who were in Chibok during the attack.
He hoped the inquiry would shed light on whether there was evidence the attack was coming, and why the government school in Chibok was open in April 2014 when so many other schools had shut due to Boko Haram violence.
“We are still demanding a comprehensive investigation to be carried out and for the work to be made known to these parents, relations and the whole world,” Alamson said.
Buhari said in a recent chat with journalists that the government had yet to locate the girls. He said he’d be open to negotiating for their release, if Boko Haram’s leadership could be located.