Fate of Many Missing Schoolgirls in Yobe Remains Uncertain

Another Chibok saga in the making? Cloud of uncertainty was hanging yesterday on the fate of the girls reportedly abducted at the Government Girls Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.

Parents demanded their return and the true situation of things from Governor Ibrahim Gaidam.

A big search for the missing girls, whose number is also unclear, has been launched.

Gaidam met with the parents and the Dapchi community over Monday’s invasion of the town and the school by Boko Haram.

It is believed that some of the girls might have been abducted by the insurgents.

The mood at the meeting with the parents, who gathered at the palace of the emir, turned sour when the governor announced that the missing girls had not been rescued, contrary to a statement the state government issued on Wednesday night.

The Nation reports that many of them left the palace in anger, tears and sorrow.

Some of the residents of Dapchi threw missiles at some of the vehicles in the governor’s convoy.

One of the parents described the governor’s message as “hopeless”.

“The message of the governor was clearly hopeless and full of lies. How can he tell us that he is not sure whether our children are missing or not, one of the parents said.

It was unclear how many of the girls were receiving treatment either in hospitals or had fled to neighbouring villages.

Report rated the affected girls as “unaccounted for” since none of the factions of Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for their abduction.

It was learnt that more teams had been deployed in the state to comb access routes to Sambisa Forest, Niger Republic and Chad for the girls.

A source, who pleaded not to be named said: “The military, the security agencies and the police are still searching for the missing girls. We have not been able to rescue them. The number of missing girls is fluid because of the nature of the raid. But out of 926 girls, 815 have returned. We are talking of between 94 and 111 girls unaccounted for.

“In view of the terrain of the area, it is difficult to assume that the unaccounted girls had been abducted.

“In view of a similar incident in Chibok in 2014, certainly we are looking at the likelihood of a Boko Haram invasion. Since they have broken into two factions, we are unsure whether it is the camp loyal to Abubakar Shekau or Abu Mus’ab Albarnawi.

“We are collaborating with member-states of the Multi-nation Joint Task Force (MNJTF) access routes to Sambisa Forest in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger Republic and Chad.

“So far, you can depend on official statement by either the Federal Government or Yobe State Government.”

The presidential delegation led by Defence Minister Manir Dan Ali is in Yobe.

Minister of Information Lai Mohamed, a member of the team, met with Gaidam at Dapchi.

He told reporters at the school premises that Boko Haram was looking for oxygen to breathe having been pushed out of Sambisa and other fringes.

On the number of girls missing, the minister said: “What we know as at today (Thursday) is that some of the girls are still unaccounted for. That is because some of them are still trickling back to the school,” the minister told journalists without giving the number of girls rescued or seen.

“What we know for a fact now is we cannot account for some students but since two days ago students have been reporting back to school. We also have it on record that some of them have phone from their hiding place, some from Damaturu, some from other locations. But, as things develop we will let you know.

But, we cannot categorically say ‘X’ number of students has been abducted but we can say not all students have returned,” the minister said..

He said the responses from the military and state government was commendable. “Since this thing happened, I’ve been in touch with the governor, the theatre commander and the GOC (General Officer Commanding).

“I think we should take it in context, to me, the most authoritative position is the one given by both the governor, theater commander and the GOC. What we know is that some students cannot be accounted for. That is because some of them are still returning”, he added.

The state government apologised for the statement issued on Wednesday night on the rescue of some of the abducted girls.

Abdullahi Bego, the spokesman of the governor said: “The public may recall that we issued a statement last night in which we announced that some of the girls at Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC) Dapchi who went missing after Boko Haram terrorists had stormed their school last Monday were rescued by officers and men of the Nigerian Army who are currently executing the war against the Boko Haram Insurgents.

”We issued the statement on the basis of information provided by one of the security agencies that is involved in the fight against Boko Haram and which we had no reason to doubt.

”We have now established that the information we relied on to make the statement was not credible. The Yobe State Government apologises for that.

“His Excellency Governor Ibrahim Gaidam was in Dapchi today where he met with community leaders and the principal and staff of the Girls’ College. The governor also addressed the parents of some of the schoolgirls that are still unaccounted for where he told them to pray and exercise patience as the government and security agencies at all levels continue the work to address the unfortunate situation.

“His Excellency Governor Gaidam has also directed Education Ministry officials and the school administration to work closely with the security agencies to establish the actual number of the girls that are still unaccounted for and to contact parents and the community for possible information that could be useful in the investigation.

”His Excellency Governor Gaidam shares deeply and personally in the grief about the unfortunate event at the Girls’ College and, under his leadership, the Yobe State Government will continue to do everything necessary in partnership with security agencies and the Federal Government to address the situation.”