A TOP Scottish civil servant based in Nigeria has told of how the African country is still “scarred” five years after the kidnapping of 270 school girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

The atrocity that shocked the world happened on the night of April 14, 2014, when Islamist extremists opposed to girls getting an education seized the pupils from a school in Chibok.

The incident sparked worldwide outrage, with celebrities including former US first lady Michelle Obama, actor Harrison Ford and model Kim Kardashian supporting a high-profile #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign demanding their release.

About 100 of the 276 female students remain in captivity, held hostage in a snake-infested forest in the war-torn north-east Borno state.

READ MORE: What has become of the 276 Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram?

UK aid has been helping to support some of the school girls who have been rescued or have managed to flee. Since October 2017 the Department for International Development (DFID) has helped more than 120,000 children aged from 6 to 14 access schooling.

Scot David Smith is the DFID’s head of policy for Nigeria. He says the nation is still reeling from the Chibok kidnappings.

Smith, 24, from Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, said: “This is something that scarred Nigeria. The fact parents are without their daughters five years on is truly tragic. It is impossible to imagine the grief the families have been experiencing in the five years since losing their loved ones.

“The kidnappings caused shock and revulsion across the world, and the memory of it lives on. There are around 100 girls still captive, making it impossible for Nigeria to move on.”

On the night of the kidnapping, convoys with heavily armed Boko Haram insurgents were spotted heading towards Chibok, where a government school had opened specially for students to sit final exams. Around 15 soldiers stationed in Chibok desperately held them off for almost an hour, but were eventually overpowered and at least 300 girls were snatched. About 50 escaped by jumping off the back of trucks.

The National: Chibok school girls freed from Boko Haram captivity in Abuja in 2017Chibok school girls freed from Boko Haram captivity in Abuja in 2017

More than 100 girls were released in 2017, after the Nigerian government agreed an exchange for five high-ranking Boko Haram prisoners. Smith said: “The famous Falomo Roundabout in Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos, features photos of the kidnapped school girls around it. There are still photos of the school girls hanging on walls all over Nigeria. It is a painful reminder not just for their friends and family, but for Nigeria as a whole.

“When you go into communities and you speak to local people you visibly see the impact that this atrocity has made. It is a hugely difficult thing for families with daughters, who want to improve their lives through education, but still face this threat. It will take years for Nigerians to recover from that. It will be a stain on the history of the country for many people.”

The name Boko Haram translates as “Western Education is Forbidden”. But the UK Government has been defying the threat of extremist groups like Boko Haram by funding education programmes.

Of the 10.5 million Nigerian children who currently have no access to education 60% are female. UK aid is helping 62,000 children displaced by violence in Nigeria’s war-torn north-east get back to school. Smith said: “UK aid has helped reintegrate some of the released school girls back into their communities. Mass kidnappings are less common but there are some horrendous acts of young girls being kidnapped and forced to be suicide bombers. On a wider level, DFID has a significant education programme in this country. We are teaching females how to use modern family planning methods and a huge amount of effort is going into improving women’s rights.

READ MORE: Nigeria: 82 Chibok girls freed by Boko Haram in exchange for terror group suspects

“We’ve just had state and national elections, and the results of this work are illustrated by the fact we had the highest number of female political candidates in Nigeria’s history.

“Better education and healthcare can only help give more Nigerians a ladder out of poverty.

“News reports and images that you see on TV cannot do justice to the suffering that some people are enduring here. I’ve seen appalling cases of malnourishment – people on the brink of death. It is difficult to deal with mentally, but DFID, with its partners, is making a huge impact and making life better for ordinary Nigerians.

“By investing overseas through international aid we are actually helping at home. Bilateral trade between the UK and Nigeria is worth nearly £4 billion a year.

“There’s an ethical and moral obligation to help, but our national interest is that peace and stability helps the UK, and we benefit as a country from having more partners to trade with.”