WASHINGTON — The mother of one of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram from a public school in the Borno State in 2014 says God will help her and the rest of her village overcome the adversity and uncertainty that they face.
Although it has been over two years since the Islamic State-affiliated terrorist outfit abducted the schoolgirls from the government secondary girls school in Chibok on April 14, 2014, only one has been rescued so far.
One Chibok mother, who had her 15-year-old daughter kidnapped by the militant organization on that fateful night, became the first parent of a kidnapped Chibok girl to leave Nigeria to speak out about the mass abduction outside the country.
The mother, who goes by the name of "Mary," recalled the details of the abduction and the aftermath during a panel discussion on the Nigerian human rights situation in Washington D.C. The discussion was hosted by the Heritage Foundation and organized by the religious freedom group 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.
Prior to the abduction, the Borno State had closed down as many as 85 schools in March 2014 due to the threat posed by Boko Haram, which has become notorious for being one of the most ruthless and deadly Islamic terrorist groups on the planet.
When the decision was made for the Chibok girls to go back to school, Mary said she went to the school to plead with the principal, who happened to be her own aunt, to let her daughter stay with her sister instead of forcing her to sleep in the school's dormitories. Mary feared the insurgents would target the school and its dorm filled with sleeping and susceptible girls.
"She said, 'No, the school administration did not permit it.' I said, "Auntie, who is the school administration? You are the school administrator and nobody else,'" Mary recalled. "She said, 'No.' My baby saw me and ran close to me and [my aunt] said, 'Leave my premises.'"
After news circulated through the village that Boko Haram conducted a midnight raid on the school and kidnapped most of the girls, Mary said everyone in the town was grief stricken.
"The whole village was shouting and screaming, all of us were traumatized," she explained. "[You couldn't] know whose baby is missing and whose babies are not missing because everybody in the village was traumatized."
Mary, whose daughter turned 18 on Wednesday, said the principal of the school received no punishment from the government. Instead, Mary said her aunt was rewarded by the Borno State governor following the abduction.
"Nothing [bad] has happened to her. [She has] only been given an award and gifts from the governor of Borno State," Mary said.
Elijah Brown, the executive vice president of 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative who was also a panelist, interjected and asked, "So you are saying that the governor has rewarded your aunt following this attack?"
"Yes, by buying cars for her and building houses for her," Mary clarified.
Mary explained that the one kidnapped girl who has returned to the town after she was discovered with a baby, Amina Ali, has provided the town with a wealth of information about the other missing captives.
Mary said that as many as six of the kidnapped girls are believed to be dead. She added that half of the kidnapped girls have been married off to militants and are now located in various villages, while the unmarried girls are located in the Sambisa Forest.
Mary called on the international community to pray for the kidnapped girls and their families.
According to Mary, as many as 15 to 20 of the kidnapped girls' parents have been killed since the abduction.
"We really need your prayers if our girls will be found," she said. "[I hope] you will help us also to rescue the lives of the dying mothers. We have many parents on their sickbed — some have been psychologically affected, some have spinal cord problems and can't even stand and walk."
"To all who have said prayers, thank you all. It is needed and is really helping us," she continued. "The Lord almighty … He will see us through and one day, we will all rejoice and be glad He did."