Chibok schoolgirls, Credit: BBC

10th anniversary Message on the Abduction of 276 Chibok School Girls

By Paul and Rebecca Mele Gadzama

Ten years ago, the terrorist group Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from Chibok Secondary School. Fifty-seven of the girls escaped while they were being ferried into the Sambisa forest. Two of the girls later escaped and were found by a vigilante group before being handed over to the military. Not too long after, 102 girls were freed by the Federal Government of Nigeria during the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Most of the girls in this group were enrolled to restart their education at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Yola.

After being held captive for upwards of 8 years, 21 girls escaped from their captors under different circumstances. It is estimated that about 91 young women are still unaccounted for. It has been reported that about 30 of the girls have died from snake bites, complications during birth, collateral damage from military operations, or other natural circumstances such as illness. Unfortunately, the girls who have this information have been warned not to discuss it.

Paul and Rebecca Gadzama, who themselves are victims of the Boko Haram insurgency, identified and brought to their home, 12 of the 57 who escaped by jumping off a moving lorry as they were headed to the forest. The girls lived with the Gadzamas in a safer region of Nigeria from June to December 2014 while providing the girls with trauma therapy. During their period of sojourn with the Gadzamas, the young women were able to process several opportunities for sponsorship to continue their education in the United States of America. One of the difficult feats accomplished by the Gadzamas was their tireless work to process necessary paperwork and secure US student VISAs for 10 of the girls, and after that organize their successful departures and flights to the USA. Two of the girls could not go as they were denied Visas. By December 2014, all the 10 girls had settled down at the two schools that provided them admissions and scholarships to restart their education in the USA which was terminated by the Boko Haram abductions.

The two that were denied VISAs were later enrolled at the American University of Nigeria under some private sponsorship secured by the University and a bridging program designed by the University especially for the girls.

Of the 10 young women the Gadzamas sent to the USA, two have graduated with master’s degrees in 2023, four graduated with 4-year B.Sc. degrees in various fields including Social Work, Law, Public Health, Respiratory Therapy, and ICT with specialization in Networking and Cybersecurity. The remaining four are at different stages of graduating. Please note that most of the girls were tested at third-grade level when they first arrived in the USA in 2014! Some interference by the Nigerian government officials affected the smooth progress of the four. Kudos to these girls and their sponsors for their wonderful achievements. One of the ladies who graduated with a master’s degree will soon be wed to an American. The Gadzamas have been invited to attend and celebrate with the would-be couple.

The two that were denied VISAs were later enrolled at the American University of Nigeria under some private sponsorship secured by the University and a bridging program designed by the University  especially for the girls.

Of the two that went to AUN, one graduated with a B.Sc. degree in accounting and went on to earn a postgraduate diploma in ICT after completing her mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Lagos. She has since launched a business called iGee Closet. We encourage you to help enlarge her business so she may employ many more. Kindly visit these sites:

The second young woman, who lost her dad recently, will graduate with a BS degree in Bio-Environmental Sciences later this year.

In late 2014 and 2015, the Boko Haram insurgency took over most of the parts of Southern Borno and resulted in millions of refugees all over Nigeria and the neighboring countries. At present, thousands remain in Internal Displaced Persons camps in Nigeria and as refugees in neighboring countries. Politicians continue to have a field day playing politics and abusing resources meant to resettle the voiceless. To address the problem of disrupted education for the IDP children, The Gadzamas through a Not-for-Profit Organization they started in 2015 have been providing education through two schools in emergencies in Borno and Adamawa States.

The 21Wilberforce Initiative has been collaborating with the Gadzamas through their organization known as EMCI (Education Must Continue Initiative) since 2016 to provide continued education to children victims of violent conflicts in the Northeast of Nigeria. Over 4,000 of such victims have been enrolled in the two schools at Yola and Lassa.

While rejoicing with these ladies and their counterparts who have made progress since their escape or release from captivity, our hearts go out to those still held by the terrorists 10 years after their abduction. We mourn those who have died but are yet to be given any form of funeral thus not allowing their parents and loved ones to have a closure since the government that has the details has not released the information. We sympathize with the parents who have not given up hope for 10 years for the return of their daughters.

Nigeria’s federal government must stop the propaganda and politics surrounding the Chibok school girls’ abduction. They should instead display a genuine commitment to the plight of these girls and their parents by giving the military a free hand to rescue the remaining girls and indeed all those still in terrorist captivity.

Similarly, the Borno State government should immediately release the 17 girls who escaped under various circumstances now under their custody and be handed over to their parents to find competent outfits to provide trauma healing, rehabilitation, and reintegration to their communities. Keeping them under continuous official captivity and providing an environment for them to be remarried by so-called repentant Boko Haram only ruins their future forever! The only business of the government in this matter is to provide their families with the necessary resources and funds to help rehabilitate their daughters. Keeping the girls away from their families and remarrying them to those who fought along with their captors is unacceptable in a sane society. Parrying them among “ex-Boko Haram” terrorists is an evil thing to do for ladies who were minors when they lost their freedom from a government school.

We further urge that the Chibok girl’s abduction should not be forgotten. How can 91 girls be buried alive for 10 years and society continue business as normal? So long as the evil meted out to Chibok girls and their families is not addressed, so long shall this evil of Chibok school girls’ abduction serve as a reminder of a national complacency to evil. Let’s not be deceived that the calamity is just on some poor illiterate communities in the faraway woods of Kuburbula, or Gatamarwa, or Gogomdi. It is about our humanity. It is about the dignity of human life. We are all represented in Chibok girls one way or the other. It could happen to any of us. The government and indeed the nation owe these girls and their families unreserved apologies, and no amount of resources poured towards rehabilitating them can compensate for the damage done to them.

We also urge the government to stop hiding the information about the demise of some of these girls and do the right thing and notify those parents who are still alive so they can have closure. These girls were abducted from the custody of the government when they were compelled to go back to school from their safe homes to sit for their SSCE final exams despite pleas from WAEC (West African Examination Council) officials to change the venue to a safer place!

God, touch the hearts of our rulers to rescue our daughters. Let us keep praying, not only for the remaining Chibok girls, but for everyone in captivity of the wicked.

Note: 21Wilberforce staff first met the Gadzama’s during a trip to northern Nigeria in early 2016. They had just launched a program called Education Must Continue providing education to children in northern Nigeria. In the last decade Education Must Continue has schooled thousands of youth. 21Wilberforce partners with them by raising funds, promoting awareness about the conditions in local communities in northern Nigeria, and advocating for a “Country of Particular Concern” designation for Nigeria by the U.S. government.