7 May 2014

Nigeria: Afri-Dev Statement on New Kidnap of More Nigerian Girls, Boko Haram Threat to Sell Previous Abductees into Slavery; and Attacks on Education, Youth and Human Development

Citing police and residents, Sky News reported that suspected members of Nigeria's notorious Islamic extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped eight more ... ( Resource: Reports: Nigeria Extremists Kidnap 8 More Girls )

Lagos — Highlights of Statement

  • New Kidnappings, and Boko Haram's Barbaric Threat to Sell Almost 300 Abducted School Girls into Slavery Underline Need for Constitutional and Law Enforcement Protection Against Forced 'Marriage' of Underage Girls.
  • Boko Haram Attack's on Schools in General, and Girl Students in Particular Undermines Overall Human and Social Development.
  • As World Economic Forum Africa Commences in Abuja from 7th May, Afri-Dev Cautions that Narrow Economic Growth Without Urgent Improved Investment in Education, Youth Employment and Human Development May Result in Wider Instability and Demographic Catastrophe - as Nigeria's Population Rockets to 239 million by 2025, and 440 million by 2050 - and Africa Doubles from 1 billion to 2 billion people by 2050.
  • Afri-Dev Calls for Parliamentary / Public Hearings Across Africa, and a Heads of State Summit on Theme of Girls and Women's Development.

Africa Health, Human and Social Development (Afri-Dev) has issued a statement condemning new kidnappings of more girls, and Boko Haram's threat to sell in to slavery almost 300 abducted school girls from Chibok in Borno State.

In the statement, Afri-Dev Coordinator and Editor of Afri-Dev.Info Rotimi Sankore -

  • Called for immediate release of all abducted girls - and added that the abductions have not happened in a social vacuum.
  • Underlined that the new abductions, and barbaric threat to sell recently abducted girl students into slavery - is in part, a fallout of misguided long term tolerance of successive Federal and State Governments for forced 'marriage' of underage girls;
  • And also reflects historical failure of some state governments to invest adequately in education and youth development in North East, and North West states especially resulting in those that seek to, or acquire education becoming a minority endangered species, facing threats from a wide and growing social base of antagonism against schools in general, and girl education in particular.

Illustrating the above Sankore stated that:

"The federal governments own statistics on education and youth development indicate secondary school attendance in North East States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe where a state of emergency has been declared are the lowest in Nigeria at 32.9% for boys, and 30% for girls. This has a created a wider social base of uneducated, and unemployed persons hostile towards education.

By comparison secondary school attendance in South West states for boys is a much higher 75.6% for boys and 75.5% for girls; in South-South 72.5% for boys and 77.6% for girls; and in South East 67.7% for boys and 70.8% for girls. North Central Nigeria is on the verge of descending into chaos with 52.2% attendance for boys and 48.6% for girls - with North West Nigeria on lowest par with North East at 36.8% for boys and 31.8% for girls.

In addition, long standing government policy tolerating forced 'marriage' of hundreds of thousands of underage girls over several decades has facilitated a backward socio-cultural context, and gender based violence against girls brave enough to seek education.

Consequently groups like Boko Haram have a wider social base in North East and North West states from which to recruit people to set schools ablaze, murder male students, and abduct girl students with impunity threatening to sell them into sexual slavery and servitude.

The data and statistics demonstrate that successive generations of political elite, and especially Governors and political representatives of North East and North West states have failed to develop their communities. It is now universally clear that poor governance, and failure to invest in human and social development has serious consequences not just for immediate communities, but also wider society. The resulting almost failed states and disaffection has been harnessed by militant extremist groups to attack human development, and destabilise the country".

Speaking further to socio-historical context of Boko Haram's hostility against human development of girl's Sankore added:

"The repeated brazen abductions of girls indicate Boko Haram probably don't think they are doing anything wildly out of the ordinary. In their communities, tens of thousands of adolescent girls are forcibly given into so called 'marriage' every year, and forced to live in open prisons as household and sexual slaves for the rest of their lives - but with far less publicity.

The atrocities against human development and rights of girls did not start with recent abductions. The well documented murder of Hauwa Abubakar in 1987 demonstrates this. In 1984 approximately 30 years ago, 9 year old Hauwa Abubakar was forcibly 'married' to 40 year old Malam Shehu Kiruwa in Bauchi State. When she turned 12 in 1987, she was forced to move in with her so called husband.

Following repeated sexual assaults, the brave girl ran away several times but was returned to Kiruwa by her father who was reportedly indebted to him. Kiruwa subsequently chopped off her legs with an axe to prevent further escape. Hauwa refused to eat in protest, and died of her injuries in March 1987. A generation of extremists have grown up with, and absorbed this kind of impunity.

Must almost 300 girls suffer the same collective fate as Hauwa before the Presidency, and National Assembly declare zero tolerance on forced 'marriage' of underage girls and close all legislative and so called cultural and religious loopholes? We should never have forgotten Hauwa, but it seems we have, and in 2014 we are brutally reminded of the historic failure to act.

"In 1987 there was no You Tube. Now the mass abduction girls is accompanied with impunity of global video terrorism threatening to sell them into slavery, and the world is waking up to a more violent and more publicised manifestation of a long standing trend.

As recently as 2013, a former State Governor and current member of the Nigerian Senate undermined its duty to protect all children regardless of gender, and justified his own 'marriage' to underage girls on cultural and religious grounds arguing that his personal circumstances and wealth offers the girls he allegedly 'married' a decent living standard.

On solutions, Sankore underlined Africa's very future is at stake: "There are at least 33 African country where over 25% of girls are forced into underage 'marriage'. The short, medium and long term solution to increased violence against girls, and attacks on education in general must include a combination of constitutionally guaranteed protection of girls from forced and underage 'marriage', strict law enforcement, and improved overall investment in education, human and social development.

As part of this process, it is imperative that all African parliaments hold public hearings on the status, rights and development of girls and youth as recommended by two successive sessions of the Pan African Parliament. A Heads of State Summit on the theme of Girl's and Women's Development is long overdue.

Africa's future is at stake. As the World Economic Forum Africa comes to Nigeria from 7th to 9th May, African governments, politicians, policy makers and the private sector would be wise to note that narrowly based economic growth indicators which have no real impact on human and social development cannot ensure long term stability and sustainable economic development.

It is globally acknowledged that poor governance, and a combination of certain sets of poor socio-economic indicators facilitate failed states, fertile ground for barbarism, violence against women, and variants of extremist groups to emerge and destabilise wider society. These conditions are mirrored to different extents across several African countries.

By 2025 in about 10 years - Nigeria's population will rise to about 239 million - and by 2050 in about 36 years is estimated to rocket to about 440 million. Africa's overall population is expected to double from current 1 billion to 2 billion the highest global population growth rate. At current rates of low education and high youth unemployment - with runaway fertility rates and no improved investment in population based development policies - much more serious instability could emerge and degenerate into wider ethnic and religious based conflict across Nigeria and Africa."

Statement Ends.

[Background Information] In late 2013 Afri-Dev.Info issued a Nigeria Scorecard with the Pan African Campaign to End Forced 'Marriage' of Underage Children demonstrating the correlation between forced 'marriage' of underage girls, states with lowest girl child education, multiple adolescent pregnancy and high maternal and child mortality. The scorecard underlined that 10 North Eastern and North Western States topped the list of states with highest forced marriage of underage girls with between 38% and 65% of under age girls forced into 'marriage'.

An earlier Afri-Dev.Info Africa wide Scorecard on Violence Against Girls and Women also demonstrated that both Niger and Chad which border the North Eastern Nigerian States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe have the highest Africa wide and global rates of forced 'marriage' of underage girls at 75% and 72% respectively underlining the transborder nature of violence against and forced marriage of underage girls. In early 2014 an updated Africa Scorecard was issued in collaboration with the Africa Women's Development Fund.

In 2014 an Africa Factsheet on Forced and Underage marriage published with the Urgent Action Fund for Women-Africa, and the Pan African Campaign to End Forced 'Marriage' of Underage Children underlined and called for closure of legislative and other loopholes allowing forced and under age 'marriage', and emphasised the various human and social development costs of this evil practice to individual girls and society as a whole.

For further information please contact Africa Health, Human & Social Development (Afri-Dev) via email: media[at]afri-dev.net. 14 Akintan Street, Lagos, Nigeria

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