— 234 girls still missing, parents insist
— Bauchi evacuates 200 female students
Bode Olagoke, Abuja
As efforts by the security agencies to rescue the abducted students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, in Borno state intensify, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has deployed over 50 well-trained dogs to join the search.
Gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram abducted over 100 students of the school on April 14.
A reliable source at the NSCDC headquarters told Blueprint yesterday that the military, in conjunction with the NSCDC, had concluded plans to deploy the dogs to the suspected hide-out of the insurgents.
The source revealed that members of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno, who had been making efforts to free the girls, had requested for the dogs due to the terrain where the insurgents were sighted in the Cameroun mountains.
When contacted by our correspondent, the spokesperson of the NSCDC, Mr. Okeh Emmanuel, confirmed the deployment but could not ascertain the actual number of officers involved in the operation.
“It is true, but I am not on ground now. I can’t ascertain the numbers,” Emmanuel said.
Meanwhile, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state yesterday paid a visit to the GGSS in Chibok where he met with the parents of the abducted students.
There was confusion when the governor was told by the parents that contrary to earlier information, up to 234 girls are still missing.
They also insisted that only 39 girls returned.
The state Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Musa Inuwa Kubo, and the school Principal, Mrs Asabe Kwambura, had claimed that 55 kidnapped students had escaped and returned home and that 77 remained in captivity.
Kwambura told reporters yesterday: “The total number of missing female students now stands at 230. Initially, before the arrival of the governor, 234 were missing, but we just recovered additional four female students.
“The number of girls recovered so far is 43. It is only 43 girls I have recovered and handed over to their parents.”
On the reason why she gave the figure of 129 initially, she said: “The 129 I gave were those that sat for Physics exams on the day they were abducted. The total number of boarding female students is 405; this means that out 405. 230 are still missing.”
She still insisted that the total number of abducted girls was less than the 234 the parents quoted.
“But the other issue is that out of the 230 missing girls some of them had run home to meet their parents and we have not received any information on them. It will also interest you to note that the school was initially Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) Chibok, but in 2011, it became Government Secondary School, Chibok, which now allows for combined male students; so the entire students population, including the day students, which are boys, is 530.”
The governor was conducted round the school as the education commissioner explained that the school was set ablaze after the students were taken away by the abductors.
One of the parents of the kidnapped girls, Malam Shettima Hamma, narrated the parents’ search for their daughters in the Sambisa forest when he said: “We trailed the abductors of our daughters far into very dangerous places inside the forest, but we couldn’t go far because we were warned against going further since we have no sophisticated weapons that could match that of those holding our daughters.
“When we heard that they have attacked the school, we rushed down here but found our daughters missing.
“We were asked to register the names of our daughters, which we all did, but up till this moment we have not seen 234 of our daughters; we have only seen 39 of our daughters that were able to escape on their own.
“We had walked into the forest for over 50km until we got to a place where we saw two houses and plenty women, about a dozen of them. They could not help us, so we continued until we came to another hamlet where we were told that if we followed a tiny footpath ahead, it would lead us to where the abductors took our daughters.
“We thanked them and proceeded through the path and continued to walk under low but thick threes. We walked for about 25 kilometres without seeing the sky or the sun; the whole place was dark because the thick tree branches shielded the sunlight.
“After some hours of walk, we came to a stream with a locally made bridge. We walked over the bridge. Everywhere was quiet, but we continued moving and searching until we met a Fulani herdsman, who urged us to move ahead of the route we were following; that we would see our daughters because he too saw them being taken away by the Boko Haram members; many of our young men got lost in the forest, because it was too thick and large.
“We continued to move on until we arrived a junction of the footpath that leads to Konduga and the other to Damboa town; there, we asked an old man who was surprised at seeing us riding on motorcycles. We told him our mission and he confirmed to us that, of course, he saw our daughters with the abductors.
“He said the girls were brought down from the truck and made to trek into the forest ahead. He pointed to us the direction they took them, but warned us that if we ventured to proceed into that part of the forest without any security personnel following us we would all be killed together with our daughters.
“He advised us that we should try and go back to Damboa and get more security agents to help, lest we would be embarking on a dangerous mission. We took his advice and began to return home, while few members of our group went back to Damoba.
“Many of our young men had been lost on our way back, it took them more than three days to get back to Chibok.”
Governor Shettima sympathised with the parents and described the abduction as the worst act in the Boko Haram insurgency.
He said the security operatives were doing their best to see that the girls were rescued unhurt.
The senator representing the area in the National Assembly, Muhammed Ali Ndume, who was on the governor’s entourage, described the abduction as the worst that could ever happen to any parent.
He said: “We are all touched by the incident concerning the abduction of our daughters.
“I am a father too; I have ten children, and every day, I put my children in the position of these girls currently in captivity and I weep for them. I weep for the poor parents.
“My heart goes to you all, so is our governor here. But you should know our limitations here in the state concerning the security deployment; neither the governor nor I have control over our security; we can only plead with the federal government to assist us.
“But be assured that we are doing our best to see that these girls are freed in one piece.”
Meanwhile, following Sunday’s attack on Government Girls Secondary School, Yana in Shira local government area of Bauchi state, which led to the death of a five-year-old girl and destruction of properties by unknown gunmen, the state government has evacuated over 200 students from the school for fear of the unknown.
The state Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Ibrahim Mohammed Aminu, disclosed this yesterday in an interview with newsmen where he said that the students were evacuated to enable the school authorities carry out renovation work on the building burnt down during the attack.
He said: “The state government ordered the evacuation of the students to enable renovation on the buildings destroyed but the evacuation is temporary because they will only stay away for three weeks.
“The only students now are the final-year students writing WAEC exams because the JSS 1-3 and SSS 1-2 are on holiday, so we want to use this period to renovate the destroyed building to enable them learn in conducive environment when they resume.”
Aminu denied insinuations that the evacuation was due to Sunday’s attack, assuring that adequate security measures have been put in place by the state government to ensure the security of not only the students of GGSS Yana but also all schools in Bauchi state.
He, however, declined comment on the place the students were relocated to, apparently for security reasons.
Unknown gunmen on Easter Sunday launched the attack at about 2.30 a.m. at Yana and burnt a five-year-old girl to death.
Police Public Relation Officer of the Bauchi state Police Command, DSP Haruna Mohammed, has confirmed the incident.