ArticlesFellowship 2021

Information Disorder and Actors of Chibok Girls’ Abduction Incidents

Reactions accruing from Twitter’s decision to site her African headquarter in Ghana in place of Nigeria demonstrates that the wrongful presentation of Nigeria as a hostile business entity through disinformation and misinformation conveyed by the Nigerian media was the causative factor that hoodwinked Twitters decision (Elebeke and Ajayi 2021). According to Lai Mohammed, the Nigerian Minister of Information, the Nigerian media de-marketed Nigeria through excessive fault-findings and exaggerated rumors about the country’s challenges, citing the #EndSARS protest as an example where the country was painted as a place where no one can live (Elebeke and Ajayi 2021).

While the argument of the information minister delineates the costly effect of information disorder on foreign investments, he inadvertently showcases the blame-game and intricacies that frustrates objective reportage. The government’s motives to be portrayed in good light even when they are obviously perpetuating wrongs is a dimension of information disorder that is imbued in corruption, to which the minister’s argument mildly insinuates.

In the same vein, a survey result of the Nigeria coronavirus vaccine-rollout, reported by The Guardian news revealed that 1 in every 4 Nigerian do not trust the government to save their lives (Poopola 2021). This sort of distrust and apathy against actions of constituted authorities in Nigeria relates to the inconsistency, distrust, and disorder in the government information system. Chukwumeka (2021) explained that different administrations in Nigeria have struggled to build trust, but their antecedents has left their citizens to trust foreign organizations more than their government, adding that continued lack of trust for the government and media would result in resistance to government policies, flight of investors and economic crises. Unfortunately, the fears of Chukwuemeka (2021) are no longer at the realm of the future but are now visible in the flight of foreign investors from Nigeria to Ghana and other advantageous countries to which Twitter’s move of headquarters to Ghana is one among many.

Aside from the civil impact of information disorder, the security dimension of information disorder appears more unsettling. A Nigerian journalist with links to the Boko Haran, the Islamist group responsible for the kidnap of 276 Chibok girls, claimed that only 15 out of the 112 missing Chibok girls were still alive (BBC 2018), but a government spokesperson at the same time countered the claim, sustaining that the government were still discussing the release of the remaining 112 girls, furthering that there was no reason to think some of the kidnapped girls may be dead (BBC 2018).

The above highlights a typical contradicting and recurring milieu of information disorder in Nigeria that often elicits unsureness, controversies, frustration, and inadvertent violent demonstrations. The dilemma that precipitated from this sort of distorted perspective snowballed expectedly into asking insinuative questions such as the type posed by one of the victims’ sympathizers, Haruna Dauda who echoed: “We need to know if they are alive or dead. If they are alive, let them come back to us. If they are dead, let us know so we can at least pray for them and then overcome this grief.” (BBC 2018).

The excerpt of John Pepper Clark’s poem which reads that the casualties are not only those who are dead and that we are all casualties (Clark 2021) implies that irrespective of having varying sides to a conflict or having a victor and a vanquished, that anybody impacted by the outcome of a conflict ought to be numbered among the casualties and this include persons who has been misinformed by the various actors involved in the rescue of the girls. The impact of Chibok girls’ abduction was upon the generality of Nigerians, including those whose children were not kidnapped but were misinformed about the effort of the government to bring back the kidnapped girls. Adepegba (2021) reported that at least twenty parents of the abducted Chibok students have lost their lives because of trauma. That they died trusting and waiting for the fulfilment of government promise is an understatement.

Nonetheless, the Chibok girls’ abduction incident produced multiple characters and actors, which include both the perpetrators and the interventionists. The chief characters comprise all the kidnapped Chibok girls, their abductors, who are known as Boko Haram, the government, the media, and the nongovernmental organizations that pioneered the Bring Back Our Girls’ movement. Unfortunately, these actors, to an extent, either ignorantly or intentionally weaponized misinformation as a tool to intimidate or weep up sympathy which did not materialize in the full release of the chibok girls. A brief description of the peculiar role of each of these actors will usher-in a symmetrical clarity that will induce a better understanding of their contributions towards the exacerbation of the girls’ abduction, and its amelioration, as what connects these actors will be established in the context of exploring each of their peculiar roles (Obiezu 2021).

Chibok town and the abduction of the schoolchildren.

Chibok is one among the 27 Local Government Areas in Borno State (OCHA 2018). Chibok Local Government is in the southern part of Borno State, while Borno State is in the northeastern part of Nigeria (Smart Survey Report 2019). The city became remarkable when about 276 schoolchildren were kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok local government area (Yuguda 2021). According to Allen Manasseh, who is the media and publicity head of the Chibok community, about 503 girls were at the school the night Boko Haram abducted 276 School girls. Allen Manasseh estimated that outside the schoolchildren released and those who managed to escape, about 112 of the Chibok girls are still unaccounted for till date (Obiezu 2021).

Despite the avalanche of contradictory narrations of the Chibok girls kidnapping, the consistent data hold that the abduction of the girls happened around 11 p.m. on the 14th day of April in the year 2014. The perpetrators of the crime were said to be militants who identified themselves as Boko Haram in the local palace language, which translates as western education is forbidden (Granville 2020). According to narration, on that very day the Boko Haram forced about 276 girls who were in their dormitories into their trucks as captives and drove them towards Sambisa Forest (Diep 2019). Few of the girls managed to escape during the journey to Sambisa Forest. The Boko Haram who are the perpetrators of the crime claim that their action was aimed at eliminating western education from the Nigerian polity. Their leader Abubakar Shekau announced that he intends to sell the 276 girls into slavery.

Aside from the reasons Shekau adduced for the kidnap, Diep (2019) analyzing Isha Sessey’s book on Chibok girls’ abduction, holds that Boko Haram had been abducting women and girls, in smaller numbers over the years. Diep (2019) continued that Boko Haram norm had been to kidnap girls and use them as sex slaves, use them as human bombs, brainwash them and radicalize them.

Though, there are questions as to why all the students waited to be kidnapped without taking flight? Diep’s (2019) report held that the school rules advise the students that when anything happens that they should not leave until a teacher comes, or else they will get into trouble. The scenario upon which the school rule applied played out at the school, so the students heeded the rule which resulted in their mass abduction.

So far, the government confirmed that on the 6th of May 2017, 82 of the Chibok girls were freed. Though those freed were presumed freed in exchange for five high-ranking Boko Haram prisoners, outside those freed and those that escaped from the abduction, the total estimate of the Chibok school girls still in captivity to date is 112. 

About Boko Haram

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf in northeastern Nigeria (Birchall, 2018). The group believes in a strict application of the version of Salafi and Wahabi Islam which forbids the taking part in anything associated with Western culture. Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which is the official name of Boko Haram in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” (Birchall, 2018). Their doctrine bars voting in an election, receiving a western-like education, or even wearing shirts and trousers. Also, Boko Haram believes that infidels run Nigeria so long as it condones multilateral religious practices. Their beliefs and orientation resonate their quest to overthrow the Nigerian State and replace it with a full Islamic state.

The Nigerian Government

‘‘The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control the people.’’ (Clancy 2017)

Unfortunately, the quote of Clancy (2017) ought not apply to Nigeria, having delineated herself as a democratic country with the constitutional provision for freedom of speech with the attendant free press (Nwankwo 2020). Nonetheless, the practice of democracy in Nigeria is where Clancy’s quote finds feat.

The Federal Government of Nigeria is made up of the legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the Constitution of Nigeria (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999). Also, the Nigerian constitution provides a separation and balance of powers among the three branches. (Constitution of the Federal government of Nigeria 1999). Therefore, when government is mentioned in the text, without specifying which of the arms, we refer to both the legislators, the executive, and the judiciary.

Nigeria’s Government is the major interventionist character in the whole Chibok abduction panorama. Nonetheless, the degree with which the government’s responses varies from her constitutional roles, either by action or inaction, is the point that will be used to determine its complicity in the Chibok kidnap incident. As highlighted by Clancy (2017), a despotic form of government often tries to malign information as a way of controlling the people. Could that be the case of Chibok girls? The provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution is a ready tool for determining the facts.

Chapter II Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution states that the security and welfare of the Nigerian people shall be the primary purpose of government (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999). This excerpt of the Nigerian constitution is the milieu upon which the capacity of the government to fulfill her primary responsibilities is rated, especially in respect to her actions in the rescue of the Chibok girls. Beside the executive arm of government, other government actors in respect of the Chibok girls’ abduction include the legislators and members of the judiciary. The actions and inactions of these institutions tend to demonstrate unseriousness and elicit actions that elicits the #EndSars and #Bringback our girls. 


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