•Disagree with FG on number of missing girls; insist 105 are missing
•Investigate girls’ abduction now, PDP tasks National Assembly
•Why rescue of UNIMAID abductees took long —Buhari
•Rescued lecturers beg Buhari for another job
•Why we redeployed troops from Dapchi – Military
By Kingsley Omonobi, Bala Ajiya, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Joseph Erunke, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Dirisu Yakubu
DAMATURU — Contrary to assertions that the figure of 110 missing girls was arrived at after a meeting with stakeholders as announced by Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Sunday, parents of the girls have differed, saying they were not part of such meeting.
Chairman of the forum of parents of the missing girls, Bashir Manzo, who said he was not aware of the meeting in Damaturu, denied knowledge of the figure of 110 announced by the minister in Damaturu.
“I am not aware of the meeting in Damaturu. No one informed us here in Dapchi that a meeting would hold As far as our record here is concerned, we still have 105, but if they have additional names to what we had first established, fine and good.”
Alhaji Mohammed, on Sunday, in a statement issued by his media aide had said:
“The Federal Government has confirmed that 110 students of the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, are so far unaccounted for, after insurgents believed to be from a faction of Boko Haram invaded their school on Monday (19 February, 2018).
“The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the figure after a meeting between a Federal Government delegation and representatives of key stakeholders, including the state government, the college, the parents, security agencies and Bursari Local Government, where Dapchi is situated, in Damaturu on Sunday.”
These came on a day President Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja, explained that the rescue of the three staff of University of Maiduguri and 10 women abducted by Boko Haram insurgents was protracted because government was dealing with two different insurgent groups working at different locations, even as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, called on the National Assembly to thoroughly investigate the abduction of the Dapchi school gils.
Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said, Sunday in Damaturu, shortly after a meeting with Governor Ibrahim Geidam, and other stakeholders at the state Government House, that the Federal government had now confirmed that 110 of the girls were missing, in the wake of Boko Haram’s attack on the school penultimate Monday.
“There was no doubt that the insurgents were in Dapchi and as at today, we cannot account for 110 girls.
“Because the total register of the students that came to school that day was 906 but as at today (Sunday), about 110 of them cannot be accounted for and that is the situation,” the minister had said at a news briefing after the meeting.
But parents of the girls, yesterday, challenged the Federal Government to explain how it came about the 110 figure it dished out to the public.
They had earlier, last week, said 105 of the students were unaccounted for, and wondered how the figure came to 110.
Chairman of the forum of parents of the missing girls, Bashir Manzo, who said he was not aware of the meeting in Damaturu, denied knowledge of the new figure announced by the minister in Damaturu.
Parents disagree with FG, threaten to withdraw children
“I am not aware of the meeting in Damaturu. No one informed us here in Dapchi that a meeting would hold. As far as our record here is concerned, we still have 105, but if they have additional names to what we had first established, fine and good. We are happy no one is saying the figure is less than what we’ve had.”
Some parents have threatened to withdraw their children from the school, since government could no longer guarantee their safety.
One of the parents, Mallam Modu Mustapha, whose two daughters were abducted, lamented the inability of security agencies to rescue the students and threatened to withdraw his children from the school, if and when they were found.
He advised government to always verify its facts before informing the public to avoid misleading information on the part of the abducted girls.
Similarly, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, urged the National Assembly to urgently open a full scale investigation into the circumstances that led to the unfortunate abduction of the students.
The party said such investigation had become necessary due to rising speculations and “conspiracy theories in the public space, fuelled by conflicting reports, attempts at cover-up and disagreements among government officials and agencies regarding the ugly incident.”
PDP tasks NASS
“The National Assembly must take a critical note of the allegation by Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Geidam, who insists that the abduction was preceded by the withdrawal of troops safeguarding the troubled area,” the party said.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan in a statement yesterday, said the position of the governor was an indication that the abduction could have been avoided, noting that as representatives of the people, it behoved on the lawmakers to unravel what truly happened in the interest of the nation.
“The governor is the chief security officer of the state and his statement cannot be taken lightly or even dismissed by just a wave of the hand by anybody or any government agency under any guise whatsoever.
“The PDP also urges the National Assembly to investigate the various conflicting reports that have characterized the abduction, particularly the initial moves by the federal government to deny the occurrence of this incident.
“Nigerians are indeed worried about the apparent deliberate design to hide the facts of this abduction and demand to know the truth. It is a common saying in Africa that thunder does not strike on the same spot twice.
“We must not allow our national ambience to be filled with speculations from conspiracy theorists. Our lawmakers must therefore, in unravelling the matter, question all security agencies, particularly those operating in the area.
“We urge the National Assembly to urgently come to the rescue of some of the parents of our abducted daughters, who were arrested and taken into custody for daring to demand to know the whereabouts of their children and wards,” the statement read.
Why we redeployed troops from Dapchi – Military
The military has explained the rationale behind the redeployment of troops from Dapchi, a town in Yobe State where the Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC) is situated.
Following the invasion, the state governor, Ibrahim Geidam, reportedly alleged that the withdrawal of the military personnel was responsible for the attack.
The Deputy Director of Public Relations, Theatre Command Operation Lafiya Dole, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, however, faulted the allegation as “unfortunate” and “very far from the truth”.
According to him, soldiers earlier deployed in Dapchi were redeployed to reinforce troops at Kanama following attacks on troops’ location at the Nigerian–Nigerien border.
Colonel Nwachukwu noted that the redeployment was on the premise that the town had been relatively calm and peaceful while the security of Dapchi was formally handed over to the Nigeria Police Division located in the town.
He stressed that the troops’ redeployment was also done in tandem with the demands of operation and not as misconstrued.
NHRC seeks restructuring of security apparatus
The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, yesterday, called for restructuring of the security architecture of the country, saying there is need to put measures in place to stop the violation of the right to education and dignity of school girls in the North-East.
The Acting Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, via a statement he issued in Abuja, said the call was in reaction to confirmation by the Federal Government that 110 out of the total of 906 students in Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State are unacounted for, after the school was allegedly attacked by Boko Haram insurgents on February 19, 2018.
Ojukwu who also Heads the NHRC Human Rights/Humanitarian Assessment Team in the North East, condemned what happened in Dapchi as “inhuman and degrading treatment which inflicts both physical and psychological torture on the innocent school girls and an affront on their fundamental rights and freedoms.“
Released UNIMAID victims: Why it took long — Buhari
Meanwhile, President Buhari, yesterday in Abuja, explained that the rescue of the three staff of University of Maiduguri and 10 women abducted by Boko Haram insurgents was protracted because government was dealing with two insurgent groups working at different locations.
This is as the Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Lawal Daura, said the service decided to follow the path of negotiations which he described as the safest option, stressing that applying force in the rescue operations would have endangered the lives of those abducted.
The rescued staff of University of Maiduguri pleaded with President Buhari to provide alternative jobs for them as they would not want to go back to Maiduguri because of their horrible experience in the hands of their abductors.
While receiving the rescued victims at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the President said he was worried whens the abductees were in captivity.
He told the abductees: “This administration has been unrelenting in your rescue and freedom from your captors several months ago. I was terribly saddened by the incident of the abduction of June 20, last year of innocent women and the brutal killing on the spot of six others along Damboa Road, while heading for the burial of a close one in Askira Uba Local Government of Borno State.
“The second was the July 26, last year of the abduction of three university staff who were on official mission to explore the possibility of the exploration of oil at the Lake Chad Basin.
“I can assure that apart from your family members, every peace-loving Nigerian prayed for your safety and wished for your early release from the hold of your abductors.
“Your rescue on the 10th of February this year was a very huge relief to me personally as well as to all Nigerians.
“Let me say that this government treasures human lives, particularly that of its citizens and following your abductions, the security agencies were directed by me to do everything humanly possible to ensure the safe release of every one of you and other persons under the hold of the insurgents.
“While government was fully aware of the expectations of your families and the general public for their immediate freedom, the path to your freedom was painstaking and protracted.
“This was because the groups responsible for your abduction were not only different but also based in different locations that if not properly handled could result in dire consequences.
“I thank all the various security agencies for their professionalism throughout this process, as well as other agencies of government, sister nations in the Lake Chad region, the International Committee of the Red Cross who have contributed to this feat of bringing you all home safely.
On Dapchi girls
“While thanking the security agencies and all those who facilitated this, let me clearly reiterate the resolve of this administration to ensure all persons abducted by the insurgents are rescued or released safely.
“This is especially against the backdrop of the recent incident where another group of girls were abducted on the 19th (of February) from Government Science and Technical Girls College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
“I have since directed all security agencies to immediately ensure that every effort is directed to ensure the safety of our schools and students as well as bringing back the abducted girls to their families.
“Government remains unrelenting towards rescuing all those abducted. Government will also work closely with all stakeholders, especially the United Nations and other donor agencies, voluntary organizations towards rehabilitating and resettling all those displaced as a result of all these conflicts, to quicken resumption of meaningful social economic activities.
“I remain very mindful of the pains and injury collectively meted out by the insurgents and we will ensure that government does not leave any stone unturned to degrade and contain these insurgents and ensure that complete peace returns to our land.
“Once again, I am pleased to see that all of you are now free and will soon join your loved ones as well as being fully integrated back into the society.
“Nigerians sympathise with you on your ordeal and wish you welcome back to your families and friends.
“And I suppose the NYSC (National Youths Service Corps) should give a certificate of discharge to the person that spent the remaining of her service somewhere else (with abductors).”
Why we decided to negotiate with Boko Haram – DSS DG
Presenting the rescued abductees to the President, the Director General, DSS, Lawal Daura, said any attempt to use brutal force in the efforts to ensure the rescue of the abducted citizens would have had a terrible consequence.
He said it was the safety of the victims that made the security operatives to toe the line of negotiations which he said paid off.
He said: “Mr. President, the search for negotiations for the rescued victims commenced in earnest, following your directives to the effect that all abducted persons must be found and rescued alive.
“However, we chose the paths of negotiation because it was considered as the safest option because any forcible attempt to rescue the victims could endanger their lives.
“These negotiations took several months and the Department of State Services, with support of the external elements of the group in diaspora and support from friendly countries and liaison with International Community of the Red Cross, made the rescue possible.
“The process was slow due to the problem of dealing with two different groups based in different locations at the same time. In addition, the negotiations took place mostly outside the country, though subsequently finalized in the theater of operations.
“The negotiations were mainly centered on an attempt at conflict mitigation which includes the fate of arrested members of the insurgent groups, especially accepting to free by government those found not to be culpable in any criminal action.
“Also, possible cessation of hostilities, especially the attacks with IEDs on innocent civilians, worship centers, schools and other public places in return for temporary stoppage of air strikes by helicopter gunships.
“Lastly, the negotiation was also centered on the possibility of granting amnesty to those willing to surrender and ready to lay down their arms by the federal government.”
UNIMAID lecturers beg Buhari for job outside Maiduguri
Expressing appreciations to the Federal Government, one of the abducted staff of the university and a lecturer, Department of Geophysics, Dr. Solomon Nicholas Yusuf, who spoke on behalf of the abductees, said they had lost hope of surviving from the abductors.
He said: “While we were in captivity and we said with 180 million or more Nigerians, will Nigeria ever come to rescue us?
“We lost hope. Sir, you surprised us. After seven months for us in the university and eight months for the 10 ladies, Nigeria rescued us. This shows that the life of every Nigerian is important and is worth rescuing.
“Sir, we are grateful. You gave us hope when there was no hope. And we are excited, we thank you Sir.
“We also want to appreciate the DSS, the Nigerian Armed Forces, and the entire team that worked together to make sure we regained our freedom. We appreciate the labour and love you have shown to us.
“We also want to appreciate Nigerians for praying. We were informed that the entire nation was praying for us and we were excited and we said oh God what is this? This is love. Sir, we are grateful.
“Sir, from the university, it is a golden opportunity for us to see you and to share our fears and concern because we were abducted while working for the nation. And right now, going back home to us is still a nightmare because of our experiences.