Nigeria: Confusion As Yobe State Government Backtracks on Missing Girls
- Angry Parents Stone Government
Abuja — The confusion trailing the attack on Government Girls Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe, by Boko Haram insurgents on Monday continued yesterday, as some aggrieved residents of Dapchi, headquarters of Busari Local Government Area of Yobe State, attacked Ibrahim Gaidam, Governor of the state.
They not only booed the number one citizen of the state but threw stones and dangerous objects at his convoy, resulting in the destruction of some vehicles.
The governor, had disclosed during a visit, yesterday that contrary to earlier reports, none of the missing girls had been rescued.
The governor, who disclosed this when he visited the community, yesterday, told weeping family members of the students to keep praying that the girls be found.
Governor Geidam's statement came barely twenty-fours after the state government in a statement signed by Director of Information, Abdullahi Bego, said the girls had been rescued by the military.
He urged the parents to remain faithful, adding that security operatives were still searching for the girls
He said: "Soldiers have been pursuing the insurgents, although they received information that the Boko Haram insurgents had passed some areas, but the communities in the areas said they did not spot the girls along with the insurgents."
He assured that government and security operatives would not rest on their oars until the missing girls were accounted for.
The waiting parents wept profusely as the earlier news that the girls were rescued turned out to be false.
Angry Residents Stone Yobe Gov in Dapchi
Meanwhile, some aggrieved residents of Dapchi, headquarters of Busari Local Government area of Yobe state, attacked Ibrahim Gaidam, governor of the state, yesterday.
They not only booed the number one citizen of the state but threw stones and dangerous objects at his convoy, resulting in the destruction of some vehicles.
The governor arrived the community before noon and immediately went into a meeting with traditional leaders at the palace of the village head.
He was said to have taken the leaders into confidence but they agreed that he should also address the crowd which had gathered outside.
"When Gaidam began speaking, we were calm. We followed all that he said with assurances that the situation was under control," Abdullahi Dapchi, a resident of the town who said two of his sisters were among the captives, told TheCable.
"But we got suspicious when he began dribbling us. You know how these politicians are. He said we should cooperate with the government that they were doing their best. We asked him about the situation and he said none of the students had been rescued.
"At that point, some parents broke down in tears, some even collapsed and before you knew it, the atmosphere was chaotic. The governor had to be ferried away by his security operatives but the mob went after the vehicles in his convoy. The peace that we have been enjoying in this community was disrupted."
Dapchi said it took the intervention of soldiers, who fired shots into the air, for the crowd to disperse.
He said moments after the troops left, some residents gathered again but this time around they started protesting.
"They blocked major roads, chanting anti-government songs and placing curses on Boko Haram," he said.
"They demanded the immediate release of the students and said they were not interested in how government would achieve that."
The protest did not gather momentum because attention had shifted to the school where Gaidam, under tight security, was awaiting the arrival of the delegation of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Three ministers - Lai Mohammed (Information), Mansur Dan Ali (Defence) and Khadija Bukar Abba, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs - later arrived in two helicopters.
They met with the governor and had a brief discussion with the media.
Appealing to family members of the captive to exercise patience with government, Mohammed said the freedom of the girls would remain a priority.
He said the actual number of the missing schoolgirls would be known when parents come forward with complaint of their wards.
"On the issue of the number of missing girls, we cannot give what we are not sure of, until we hear from their parents, we cannot say this is the number," he said.
Yobe Govt Apologises for False News
Meanwhile, Yobe State government has apologised for a false report it released stating that some of the missing schoolgirls from the state had been rescued.
The government said in a statement last night: "'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 Geidam 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 Geidam has also directed Education Ministry officials and the school administration to work closely with the security agencies to establish the actual number of 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 Geidam 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."
FG not sure of true situation of missing schoolgirls - Lai Mohammed
Also yesterday, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said the Federal Government would need more time to assess the situation around the community where the schoolgirls were reportedly kidnapped in Yobe State on Monday.
"On the issue of the number of missing girls, we cannot give what we are not sure of, until we hear from their parents, we cannot say this is the number," the minister told reporters shortly after he arrived at Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, yesterday afternoon.
"Give us a few more time please," he pleaded.
Alhaji Mohammed was among the three ministers that President Muhammadu Buhari asked on Wednesday to embark on an immediate fact-finding mission to the state.
His comments that the Buhari administration cannot immediately give any details about the situation came a day after the state government said some of the kidnapped girls have been rescued and handed over to the Nigerian Army.
But that account now seems to be in dispute, as the Defence Headquarters said the alleged rescue could not be confirmed.
"We cannot confirm" the statement by Yobe State that some of the girls have been rescued, Defence spokesperson, John Agim, said yesterday morning.
Similarly, a federal lawmaker who represents the community, said the report that girls were kidnapped was untrue.
"The military did not rescue any girls yesterday as being reported in the media," Goni Bukar, the lawmaker representing Bursari/Geidam/Yunusari federal constituency," said.
"I am currently speaking with you from the school and I stand here with the governor and other top military officials. I can tell you that no girls were rescued," he added. "We have only been able to locate some girls in one or two batches at different places."
Alhaji Lai Mohammed arrived at the community with Khadijat Bukar-Ibrahim, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam, was on ground to receive the team. The Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Rogers Nicholas was also on the scene.
The minister and his entourage were briefed by the governor and the General Officer Commanding 3 Division, Damaturu.
Shortly after the briefing, Mohammed told reporters that he was delegated by the President to visit the attacked community and commiserate with the victims.
He said his delegation which also includes a representative of the Minister of Defence, was also to find out the true situation about the missing schoolgirls, saying it was still too early to determine their whereabouts.
He said: "We are still monitoring the situation and what I want people to understand is that since two days ago some of the students who fled to neighbouring towns and communities had returned and more have been returning.
"When we arrived here we have been briefed by the governor and the GOC about the situation of the students. We know there are few students who are yet accounted for, but we don't want to manufacture stories on this issue. But give us few days, we will be able to tell you exactly the real situation of things.
"But you can see response of the military, the response of the state government is quite commendable. Since four days now we have been following the efforts being made to arrest the situation," he said.
He lampooned the Boko Haram and said the sect only attacked the school because it is in its dying days and craving media attention.
"But we must understand that these are the dying days of the Boko Haram and what they intend to do is to embarrass the government because they have been degraded, they have been pushed out of Sambisa forest.
"They have been starved out of oxygen and the oxygen they feed on is publicity so that they can grab the world's attention. But I can assure you that with the determination of our gallant military, the days of Boko Haram are numbered."
We can't confirm Yobe rescue story -- DHQ
However, Defence Headquarters yesterday dismissed insinuations that the Army had rescued the missing girls.
"We cannot confirm the statement by Yobe State that some of the girls have been rescued," Defence spokesperson, Brigadier-General John Agim, said yesterday.
Agim said he could not give further details about the military's intervention in the matter.
The police could not also confirm if the girls had been rescued as an aide to the Commissioner of Police, Sunmonu Abdulmaliki, said the police had no information that the girls were actually rescued from Boko Haram.
"There's nothing we can confirm," said the CP's aide, who added that the police would be working with the team of three ministers that President Muhammadu Buhari sent on Wednesday day to travel to Yobe.
"We hope that after the visit by the delegation, the picture would be clearer," he added.
Senate condemns attack, resurgence of Boko Haram
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday condemned in very strong terms, the resurgence of Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, following alleged kidnap of of no fewer than 111 school girls of the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
Consequently, the Senate yesterday asked the Federal Government to quickly recover the girls to avoid a repeat of the Chibok girls' experience.
It also said it was unfortunate and disheartening that Boko Haram was back to the geo-political zone of the country.
The position of the Senate on the resurgence of Boko Haram seems to contradict claims that the insurgents had been decimated or defeated.
Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion by Senator Abba Bukar Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East), who drew the attention of the senators to Monday night's attack on Government Girls' Technical College, Dapchi, in Yobe State.
Narrating the incident, Senator Ibrahim, who noted that 46 of the 926 girls in the school had gone missing since the attack, said that no lives were lost in the attack, though it was still not clear if the girls were abducted.
Senator Bukar Ibrahim said: "On Monday, February 20, 2018, some suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
"Concerned that out of 936 female students, who ran into the bush, 46 are still missing. 810 returned. I understand that the governor of Yobe State has already got the military to deploy military and the police.
"So far, there has been no case of killing. Nobody is sure if it was a case of abduction or some of the girls who ran home have not yet come back. These are yet to be confirmed. The Federal Government has already sent a high powered delegation; three ministers to go and stay in Damaturu and report to Mr. President on a continuous basis until the matter is resolved."
During discussions on the motion, senators, however, clashed over comments on the governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam.
Infact, the clash was between the Senate leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe North) and Senator Mohammed Hassan (APC, Yobe South).
While Senator Lawan hailed the governor for being proactive, Senator Hassan disagreed sharply with the Senate leader.
Senator Lawan, who commended the quick response of President Muhammadu Buhari and the state government to arrest the situation, said what happened should be an eye-opener that Boko Haram now sees girls and women as value target for ransom, just as he called for extra vigilance and security in schools, especially in all girls schools.
Senator Lawan said: "What happened was unfortunate and after the Chibok incident, it was the wish of every Nigerian that it doesn't happen again in the country. I want to, at this point, commend Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, for immediately taking action by directing the armed forces to move into yobe to ensure that book haram did not run away with any single girl.
"I want to also commend the governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam, for ensuring that parents were comforted, for sending officials of the ministry of education to go round the families and ensure that they took head counts of the girls from that school.
"What happened is a lesson for us. That Boko Haram sees girls or women as value targets. What they did in Chibok earned them some funds, because negotiations were held somehow and they got a lot of money.
"Now, the lesson is, we need to be extra careful and take extraordinary measures in protecting our schools; especially girls' schools in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Countering the position of the Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Hassan, who noted that the state government didn't deserve any commendation, said the state government has "failed serially" to protect the people and that the praise from Ahmed Lawan was misplaced.
According to him, since the incident happened, there has been no single report by the state government.
He said: "In 2013, a secondary school in Potiskum was attacked, where over 70 children were killed. A year after, another secondary school in Mamudu was attacked where school children were slaughtered. There was another attack in Buni Yadi where students were attacked, the state university too was attacked and now we have this one.
"This is quite disheartening to hear, with due respect to Senator Lawan, to commend the state government for serially failing to protect our students. This is the primary responsibility of the government; to protect the lives and properties of its citizens.
Stop paying Boko Haram money -- Senator Lidani
In his contribution, Senator Joshua Lidani (PDP, Gombe South), said he thinks Nigeria might have emboldened Boko Haram each time it acceded to its demand for ransom.