Nigerian authorities ‘confused’ over abduction of schoolgirls
Confused and contradictory statements from government and military followed last week’s abduction of 105 female students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, in Dapchi, Yobe state, northeastern Nigeria by Boko Haram.
The Nigerian government at first denied the girls were abducted saying they had scattered into the bush or may be in the surrounding villages and may not have been able to contact their parents after the attack butwould eventually show up. But twenty four hours later Yobe State government then issued a statement on Thursday 22 February, that about 50 of the girls had been rescued by the ‘gallant’ Nigerian army.
But the government had to retract the claim on Friday. “We have now established that the information we relied on to make the statement was not credible,” said Yobe State government’s spokesman Abdullahi Bego. “The Yobe State government apologises for that.” He said.
The parents of the girls, in anger and frustration, presented the government with the list of all the 105 girls abducted on Thursday.
Kundiri Alhaji Bukar, a parent, told BBC that ‘(The governor) said soldiers were dispatched but the military commander told him they could not locate the girls with the Boko Haram militants. He said no-one is really sure whether the girls were taken away by Boko Haram. But we on our part, we believe Boko Haram abducted the children.”
In a tweet, President Muhammadu Buhari said, “I share the anguish of all the parents and guardians of the girls that remain unaccounted for.”
He added, “I would like to assure them that we are doing all in our power to ensure the safe return of all the girls.
A public analyst told Global Christian News: “We are witnessing the abduction of the Dapchi girls, as a replication the abduction of the Chibok school girls in April 2014; the government’s denials and then the subsequent scramble to rescue them, long after they have disappeared followed by the blame game and then the claims and counter claims for political benefits.
“This is because of witness accounts, who say the abduction smirks of a planned operation while authorities are chosing to ignore its seriousness and implications of the abductions because they have acclaimed Boko Haram is defeated,” the analyst said.
Witnesses in the village in Dapchi said the Boko Haram Islamists who came into the village seemed to be “total strangers to the town”, Abubakar Muhammed said. “They did not even know where the school GGSS is located even though it is just by the road on the way to Gashua. And when they eventually located the school they moved in, captured many of our daughters and left without any one confronting them”, Muhammed tearfully said.
Abdullahi Jimuna, a trader in the village, said, “When they arrived the town the vehicles separated in two groups, taking different directions. Then suddenly they began to shoot sporadically. After a while, as everyone was fleeing, then we began to hear the schoolgirls were screaming, we saw some of them scaling the fence and taking to the bush. Then we saw some of them being conveyed in a truck and being taken away.”
Jimuna said. “We were told on Wednesday night that they have been rescued somewhere near Geidam, but we later found out that it was all lies. It was lies because the governor came here today and informed us that as far as he was concerned these kids were not even abducted and taken away, that they might have ran into the bush.”
Aminami Maigoro, a frustrated parent who came with the expectation of taking his daughter home after the government announced that some of the girls were rescued, said, “We live in Jimbam, a village not far away from here and she is schooling here. We came here to take delivery of our daughters after we heard that they were rescued in Geidam. But when we got here we found out that there were no girls that were rescued. We are seriously concerned and worried about government coming out to deny its statement made less than 24 hours ago. We fear they should not play politics with the lives of our children.”
The Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, in a statement said, “it is painful that despite the earlier claim by the federal government that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” and the latest one that the insurgency was “completely defeated”, 94 students could be abducted in Yobe State in just one day.
Fayose said “Most importantly, the federal government should stop lying concerning the fight against Boko Haram insurgents because it has now become the tradition that whenever the government boasts of defeating the insurgents, greater havoc is wrecked on the country”, he said.
Boko Haram still has over 100 schoolgirls it abducted from Chibok secondary school out of the over 276 abducted on 14 April 2014. 0ver 50 escaped, a number had died and the Nigerian government paid ransome for the release of 82 of the girls.
Despite the Nigerian government’s claims of the defeat of the Islamist Boko Haram Jihadi group, the attacks of the terrorist group has increased in the last few weeks.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.