In October last year, 21 of the kidnapped girls were released in a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross while 113 of the girls are believed to be still held in captivity by the terrorists.
A legal practitioner and mediator, Zannah Mustapha, said some of the abducted girls refused to join the train to freedom, fuelling fears that they had been radicalised by the jihadists, and might be afraid, ashamed or even too powerful to return to their old lives.
“Some girls refused to return. I have never talked to one of the girls about their reasons,” said 57-year-old Mustapha, who acted as an intermediary in the latest negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, while speaking with Reuters.
“As a mediator, it is not part of my mandate to force them (to return home).”
A Nigerian psychologist, Fatima Akilu, believed that the girls might preferred to identify with their captors instead of embracing freedom.
“They develop Stockholm syndrome, identify with captors and want to remain,” said Akilu, who has run deradicalisation programmes for Boko Haram militants and women abducted by them.
“Some are afraid of what to expect, the unknown. We don’t know how much influence their husbands have in coercing them not to go back,” added Akilu, head of the Neem Foundation, a non-profit group aimed at countering extremism in Nigeria.
On his part, Mustapha explained that future talks between the government and the sect would extend beyond the release of the remaining Chibok girls in captivity and focus on negotiating peace in the conflict-hit North-East.
Why release of 82 girls was suspended by sectMedia reports about the 21 Chibok girls released in October 2016, caused the delay in the release of their 82 colleagues, who were left off the hook on Saturday.
A competent source told Punch on condition of anonymitythat the arrangement between the Boko Haram sect leaders and the Federal Government negotiators was that the release of the 21 girls on October 13, 2016 should be kept secret.
The source added, “Unfortunately, I guess somebody who was part of the process was excited at the release of the girls and broke the news to an online medium. The government had no choice but to confirm the development against the wish of the sect leaders.
“With that development, which was seen in the Boko Haram camp as a betrayal of trust, they also refused to release the 82 girls the following Saturday as agreed earlier.”