Nigerian officials gave permission on Tuesday for a memorial event at a school in northeast Nigeria from where Islamist rebels abducted 276 girls two years ago with parents hoping this would remind the world their daughters are still missing.
The event, a prayer session integrating both Muslim and Christian faiths, will mark the second anniversary of the girls’ abduction by Boko Haram militants from Chibok that provoked an international outcry and a viral campaign #bringbackourgirls.
It will be held on April 14 – exactly two years since Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Secondary School in Chibok in the middle of the night and kidnapped 276 girls. In total 57 managed to escape but 219 remain missing.
Lawan Zanna, secretary of the Parents of the Abducted Girls from Chibok association, said the government had agreed to give the parents access to the school that is heavily guarded and all the parents of the missing girls are expected to attend.
The parents were hoping the event would again garner attention for the girls who have not been seen since the night of their abduction despite calls to find them from celebrities and politicians including U.S. first lady Michelle Obama.
“We have also invited all the government officials from Chibok .. and they also promised to allow any person from the media to join us,” Zanna, whose 18-year-old daughter is among the missing girls, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of boys and girls in northeast Nigeria over the past seven years, turning them into cooks, sex slaves, fighters, and even suicide bombers to attack their own villages, according to Amnesty International.
But the Chibok abduction remains the most high-profile.
On the first anniversary of the abduction the parents held a memorial event at the school but then a military checkpoint was then set up outside the school and the area ruled out of bounds.
Visitors are required to seek official permission from the government or the military to get access to the school and also to Chibok town.
The parents received permission to use the venue for this year’s event on Tuesday after three representatives of the parents’ association met with government officials.
In March last year, the previous Nigerian government of President Goodluck Jonathan began work on rebuilding the school that was razed by the militants on the night of the abduction.
But weeks later Jonathan was forced from power by Muhammadu Buhari in a national election and no buildings have yet been erected on the school site.
Buhari ordered a new investigation into the kidnappings in January.