There was disquiet everywhere in 2014 when over 200 students of Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, were abducted by members of the dreaded Boko Haram Sect. Almost four years after, a similar ugly situation repeated itself in Dapchi, a town in Yobe state, with the abduction of over 100 school girls. Reactions of the federal and Yobe state governments, as well as a section of Nigerians to the development have brought to the fore embarrassing similarities in both incidents. TOPE SUNDAY and ABDULRAHAM ZAKARIAYAU report.
The Boko Haram sect has become a globally-recognised terrorist organisation notwithstanding Nigeria’s government’s seeming reluctance to declare the group as such. Activities of the sect, which had come under intense fire with the sustained operations by the military in the North-east, have been targeted at soft targets like women and children.
News of the abduction of over 100 school girls from Dapchi, Yobe state, however, took many by surprise, especially given similarities in the circumstances surrounding this latest abduction and the 2014 abduction of over 2001 girls by members of the sect from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state.
As was the case in 2014, there are series of intrigues surrounding the latest abduction in this Yobe town, with the situation best described as: like Dapchi, like Chibok abduction.
Location and target
Nigerians, especially residents of Chibok, cannot forget in a hurry the incident of April 14, 2014, where about 276 female students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State, were abducted by the members of the Boko Haram Sect. Regrettably, the insurgents succeeded in moving the over 200 girls away without any hindrance from either the military or the other security agencies.
Similarly, February 19, 2018, ended another sad day in Nigeria, as over 100 female students were once again abducted from the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe state. Like what obtained in Chibok, the insurgents executed their operational plans without hindrance despite the heavy deployment of military and the security personnel in the state and North-east in general.
Remarkably, as was the case in the earlier incident on the President Goodluck Jonathan led administration, the President Muhammadu Buhari led government is yet to wake up to the reality of the situation to avoid the repeat of the same tale.
It is worth noting that both abductions of large number of female students took place in the North-east, where girl-child education has been a challenge over time, a situation which may deteriorate with another such incident.
Surprisingly, the concerned authorities have failed to do the needful to secure the lives of students. Like Dapchi, like Chibok, the girls only school had no security parameter to protect the girls from avoidable dangers like being the target of members of the Boko Haram sect.
Like Jonathan, like Buhari
The unfortunate incidents in Chibok and Dapchi call to question the commitment of Nigerian leaders to the constitutional mandate of securing lives and property of citizens. From the state to the federal government, as well as politically elected representatives the story doesn’t seem to have changed from 2014 till date.
When over 200 Chibok girls were abducted under the President Jonathan’s administration, the response of the Presidency was that of total denial. For days, the administration did not acknowledge that the girls were actually abducted and even when it finally did, efforts at rescuing the girls appeared to have been handled with the same reluctance. It was considered a security threat for the president to visit the scene to commiserate with the government and people of the state. His actions on the Chibok girls, is widely believed to have contributed to his eventual defeat at the 2015 presidential polls.
The question on lips of some Nigerians, is whether President Buhari is playing the same script as his predecessor on the Dapchi kidnapping.
It is worthy of note, that it also took the present administration six days after the over 100 girls went missing to acknowledge the incident.
The government through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on February 25, 2018, that “as of today we cannot account for 110 students.” Not a few Nigerians have expressed disappointment over the development. Expectations were that a man of President Buhari’s standing would have, as a matter of urgency and national importance, visited the Dapchi community to sympathise with the parents of the abducted girls and assure them of his government’s commitment to rescuing the girls.
However, the president who was one of the leading voices against the Jonathan-led government’s handling of the heat of Chibok incident, is yet to walk the talk.
As a result of this, some political analysists are of the view that the second term ambition of the president may have suffered a major setback. This may have been compounded by the administration’s handling of other security breaches especially the killings involving herders.
Like APC, Like PDP
Interestingly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was the ruling party when over 200 girls were abducted by the Boko Haram in 2014, while the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is now in power at the centre, was an emerging opposition party and opposed the PDP’s handling of the abduction.
In an address, at the House of Commons, London, the then National Publicity of Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, alleged that, the Boko Haram crisis is readily used by the PDP to rationalise the Jonathan government’s abdication of its constitutional responsibilities, including visits and assistance to areas affected; effective response to kidnappings and abductions, for instance the Jonathan government was silent over the Chibok girls kidnapping for over 15 days.
Incidentally, after over two years in government, the APC-led government has been unable to practice most of what it preached and advocated while in opposition. The Buhari-led government has continued to face criticism over its claims of having ‘completely degraded’ the insurgents who have continued to wreak havoc on hapless citizens.
Paying the APC in its own coin, the opposition party through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a recent statement alleged that the presidency was responsible for the abduction of the Dapchi girls.
As witnessed in the Chibok saga, the present administration could be said to be toeing the Jonathan’s administration’s line. Concerns were raised over accounts given by the Presidency, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state, Police Commissioner Lawal in charge of the state, CP Tanko, Principle, Government Girls, Chibok, Mrs. Asabe Kwambula; Commissioner of Education, Comrade Inuwa Kubo, and the DPO, Chibok Division, Hezekiah, were muddled up with each party giving different versions of the abduction incident.
Similar same scenario played out in the Dapchi saga as neither the state Governor, Ibrahim Geidam, the Police Commissioner, Abdulmalik Sumonu, nor the Head of the School, could initially give accurate number of the missing girls.
According to the Police boss 815 out of 926 students were physically seen in the school as of Tuesday, February 20, after the incident. But after some days, the federal government came up with a definite figure of 110.
As if operating from the Chibok book of horror, the government of Yobe behaved like Jonathan.
The Chibok and Dapchi abduction have many things in common. However, the most common denominator is the withdrawal of military personnel deployed to the town before the abductions.
Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe state alleged that the withdrawal of the troops from the area was responsible for the attack and abduction of female students of the college. But the military reacting through the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyeama Nwachukwu, dismissed as “misleading, alleged withdrawal of troops to aid the abduction of the Government Girls Science Technical College students in Dapchi, Yobe state.”
Col. Nwachukwu, in a statement in Maidugur, said the allegation against the military, “is not only unfortunate, but also very far from the truth.”
He said Dapchi Town was handed over to the police following the return of peace and civil authority in the area. His words: “Contrary to the comments credited to Governor Ibrahim Geidam, troops earlier deployed in Dapchi were redeployed to reinforce Kanama following attacks on troops’ location at the Nigerian-Nigerien border.
“This is on the premise that Dapchi has been relatively calm and peaceful, and the security of Dapchi was formally handed over to the Nigeria Police Division located in the town. Therefore, troops’ redeployment was done in tandem with the exigencies of operation as against the misconstrued notion.”
CP Abdumalik on his part said: “The statement by the military of formal handing over of Dapchi town to the Nigeria Police Division in Dapchi is not correct and untrue, as there was no time that the military informed the Police of their withdrawal, consult or handed over their locations in Dapchi town to the Police.
He said in a statement in Damaturu, “The whole of Yobe state is still under security emergency which the Police, the Military and other security agencies are battling to ensure lasting peace.
“Members of the public in Yobe state are implored to disregard and discountenance this claim that the military formally handed the security of Dapchi Town to the Nigeria Police as untrue, unfounded and misleading.”
Former President, Goodluck Jonathan during his tenure, inaugurated a presidential committee to look into issues surrounding the abduction of the Chibok girls and also consider possible rescue plans.
However, the committee, which was chaired by Alhaji Kabiru Turaki, after seven months of traversing the North-east region, recommended that an Advisory Committee be set up to for engage all the stakeholders in the region and the insurgents in a further dialogue to stop further kidnap of school girls in the region.
Barely four years after, the present administration also inaugurated a 12-man committee to investigate the events that led to the abduction of the Dapchi girls.
However, some Nigerians have continued to wonder became of the Jonathan’s committee report on the Chibok girls, making them doubt the likelihood of the implementation of recommendations of the just inaugurated committee on the Dapchi girls’ abduction.
The question on the mind of many is whether the Dapchi abduction would go the way of the Chibok girls’ abduction which remains enmeshed in political and religious controversies.