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Unanswered questions trail Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction

. Despite government’s claim that terrorists were technically defeated

By Dotun Ibiwoye

The trajectory of events surrounding the release of the Dapchi school girls still raises several issues of the exit wound created by Boko Haram.

The exit wound has amalgamated some innocent and ‘potential recruits’ into the quagmire created by Boko Haram.

After declaring in 2016 that the extremist group had been technically defeated, the Nigerian government announced to the world that 110 girls were missing in February 19, 2018, after a faction of Boko Haram militants invaded Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State, 104 of the kidnapped girls were returned to the North-eastern town in March.

The abduction was reminiscent of the infamous 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from a school in Chibok. Borno State.

Leah Sharibu

Thirty days after the abduction, on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, 104 of the 110 abducted Dapchi girls, were released and several pictures were taken, indicating that the youths of Dapchi town have saluted and shaken hands with the terrorists.

Several accounts of locals and security agents showed that the terrorists arrived the town around 7:30am on that Wednesday and left amidst cheers without hurting anybody.

This action raises a lot of question on the psyche of the youths who were jubilating with the terrorists, who were in turn responding- not like soldiers of fortune but like philanthropists donating to an orphanage.

The girls were brought back by the jihadist group in nine trucks.

As the locals trooped out in hysteria to receive the girls, they cheered the terrorists while some eye witnesses were brave enough to shake hands with some of the dreaded terrorists. The insurgents were fully armed but harmed nobody while some of its members preached to the residents to avoid western education which the group stands against.

Reports have it that the Nigerian government relaxed security as part of the deal struck with the militants to facilitate the delivery of the first batch of the girls numbering about 101.

The terrorists took their time to preach to the residents.

One Ibrahim Husseini who is a Dapchi resident said: “It was a thing of joy for us in Dapchi when suddenly we began to see trucks moving into the town at about 7:30 a.m in the morning. They brought the girls and then they were telling the general public that they should not go back to Western education schools; that what they did was not terrorism but rather the propagation of Islamic knowledge.”

Kachalla Bukar, who is the secretary of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls’ parents’ group, said he was on hand to receive the girls and even took pictures with the terrorists.

He said: “But we, the parents of the missing girls, did not run as other villagers did, because we could run and leave our girls in the hands of Boko Haram. When they came, they told us that they were returning the girls not because somebody gave them money, but out of their freewill.

”We thanked them.Then they told us that we must never return our girls to western school again; we said we will do as said. They preached to us for some time, and we said we will heed to their sermons.

“They shook our hands and asked us to forgive them for whatever pains that they might have caused us; then we shook hands and they asked us to snap photos with them using their mobile phone which we all did.”

This implies that the terrorists had a field day with the resident in preaching their hatred against western education and re-orientating the residents about their radical brand of Islam.

No matter how long or short they might have stayed, it is clear from the aforementioned that they took their radical agenda to the residents- both old and young.

Due to the feeble mind of the children, adolescents and the youths in Dapchi town, radicalization might be easily achieved.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has not made any official statement about this till as at the time of writing this report.

But the return of the abducted girls and two other children has raised concerns that Federal Government may yet again have paid millions of dollars for the return of what may be described as “priced” hostages.

Last year, the federal government paid millions of euros for the release of 83 Chibok schoolgirls, who were abducted by the same terror sect in 2014.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who led the government delegation to Maiduguri immediately after the Dapchi girls were freed, said no ransom was paid, nor did a prisoner swap take place. There was no explanation from the government as to why Boko Haram seemingly increased their attacks on soft targets in the North-east Nigeria once hostages have been released.

Also, there was no word from government on the fate of four Dapchi schoolgirls that may still be in the custody of the Islamist sect, since it had given the number of girls that were abducted from their school on February 9 at 110.

During his briefing in Maiduguri, the Minister of Communication said all the 106 persons were freed unconditionally, contrary to reports that ransom was paid and some insurgents swapped for the release of the girls.

“It is not true that we paid ransom for the release of the Dapchi girls, neither was there a prisoner swap to secure their release. What happened was that the abduction itself was a breach of the ceasefire talks between the insurgents and the government, hence it became a moral burden on the abductors, he said.

Youths shaking hands with Boko haram members

“Any report that we paid ransom or engaged in prisoner swap is false,” he said.

He also affirmed that the only condition given by abductors of the girls was that they would return the girls to where they were abducted.

However, he said the girls were not dropped in a single place but in various locations and from there, went to their various homes.

Surprisingly, he expressed ignorance as to how a boy came to be among the freed girls.

On what emboldened the abductors to bring the girls in such a huge number to Dapchi, Mohammed said there was an agreement that once negotiations started, the military would stay action.

“The girls were released unconditionally, no money changed hands. They only had one condition, that they will return them to where they picked them. So, in the early hours of today, they did return the girls and most of them went to their parents’ homes, he averred.

“Many of the girls that were released were not dropped in one place. Some were dropped on the road and they went back naturally to their parents’ houses. I can tell you that this is authentic. Whether they picked the boy or not, I can’t hazard any guess but don’t forget that even in a girls’ school, which is a boarding school, there will be parents.

“There are teachers who can have children amongst them. But what I have been told is that the Dapchi girls and one boy have been released,”

On what government would do to prevent another abduction, Mohammed said the security agencies had been directed to secure schools in the North-east region while there were also efforts by the government to merge some schools.

On a visit to Yobe State on March 14, 2018, President Buhari had vowed that he won’t sleep until the girls return home to their parents.

“I am here in Yobe State today, to express my sincere sympathies with the parents, families, the government and the entire people of Yobe State whose daughters were callously abducted by unrepentant terrorists.

“Since this ugly incident happened, I have not left any stone unturned in making sure that the girls are rescued. I have ordered the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take direct charge and brief me on a daily basis on the efforts to bring back the girls”.

Buhari also said he was going to negotiate for the return of the girls.

“Furthermore, the government is partnering with the International Community and organizations including our neighbours to ensure that these girls are safely returned. Just recently, I reiterated our resolve to negotiate for the unconditional release of the girls. This is borne out of this administration’s conviction that, doing so is safer devoid of risks and will not endanger the lives of our young girls who are in harm’s way.

“There will be no rest till the last girl, whether from Chibok and Dapchi, is released. The girls, like all our citizens, must enjoy unhindered freedom and pursue their legitimate aspirations,” President Buhari had said.

The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group had been clamouring for the rescue of Dapchi and Chibok girls and other captives in Boko Haram custody.

Over 164 Chibok girls have so far returned home following negotiations between the Federal Government and the terrorists; with 112 still in Boko Haram custody.

On March 30, 2018, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev Dr Samson Olasupo Ayokunle declared Good Friday as a day when all churches in the country should pray for the freedom of Leah Sharibu from the captivity of Boko Haram terrorists.

Leah was abducted alongside other now-freed girls from their school in Dapchi on February 19.

She is a Christian girl who refused to renounce her faith and has not been released by Boko Haram terrorists as at the time of filling this report. The other 104 Dapchi schoolgirls released on March 21, are Muslims.

Her father, Sharibu Nathan, had disclosed that his daughter, Leah Sharibu was not released by Boko Haram terrorists because she refused to abandon her Christian faith for Islam.

The CAN President, in a statement issued four days before Easter by his special assistant, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said prayers for Leah became necessary since Christians are in a “Passion Week’ when, according to him, Jesus, out of passion, willingly submitted himself to be nailed to the cross to pay for the sins of the world, once and for all.

He said in the Week of Passion, “Jesus, though sinless, was scourged by the Roman soldiers, was forced to carry His Cross through the streets of Jerusalem along what is known as the way of sorrows. Jesus was then crucified at Golgotha on the day before the Sabbath, buried and remained in the tomb until Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, after which he gloriously resurrected.”

According to him, “We should be passionate in our worship of Jesus and in our proclamation of His gospel! As He suffered for us, so should we be willing to suffer for the cause of following Him and proclaiming the message of His death and resurrection.

“It is against this background that the leadership of CAN is calling on every Christian nation-wide to stand in the gap for that innocent girl, Leah Sharibu, at 12 noon on Good Friday, asking God to send His Angels to deliver her from the captivity as He did for Apostle Peter who was jailed unjustly.

“CAN is also reminding the Federal Government and the security agencies of the need to free Leah and other captives from the captivity of the Boko Haram terrorists. It is high time our security operatives lived up to the expectations of the people. They should stop the spate of abductions of innocent citizens by terrorists as well as killings by Fulani herdsmen across the country while mounting adequate security for citizens of the country”.

CAN, however, called on all Christians across the country to use the Passion Week to pray for Nigeria to be free from all forces of darkness, including prayers for those who had lost their relations or property during the recent terror and herdsmen attacks.

On of the most vocal senators in the Nigerian Senate, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, from Bayelsa State, also reacted to the continued captivity of Leah Sheribu, the Christian girl who refused to renounce her faith.

But the senator also commended Leah Sharibu concerning her faith in Jesus Christ, saying she has shown that one does not negotiate with terrorists.

He tweeted, ”Leah has refused to negotiate her faith with terrorists.

“She has shown that you don’t negotiate with terrorists. Between Boko Haram and Leah, who has the power? It is Leah.

“Without guns and bombs, she has overpowered her captors. May God bring Leah, my heroine, safely back home.”

Kachalla Bukar, father of one of the schoolgirls freed, told reporters in March on telephone: “We were told she was on her way but she has not yet been brought,” Kachalla, is the spokesman of the abducted schoolgirls’ parents union.

The authorities had asked shopkeepers to close in late March in anticipation of her arrival.

On the 24th of March, Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, told reporters also in Maiduguri, capital of neighbouring Borno State, that the girl “may be released today”.

Idris said he cancelled a visit to Dapchi to avoid any “security hitch” in the town before Leah’s arrival, without providing further details.

But the next day, a spokesman for the national police said that Idris’ comments had been “misunderstood and misquoted”.

“The misunderstanding may be as a result of the already released Dapchi schoolgirls expected back home in Yobe State today but could not arrive due to weather conditions,” spokesman Jimoh Moshood said in a statement.

The police “reiterates that it has no information yet on the release of the last Dapchi schoolgirl,” he said.

A human right activist, Aisha Wakil, in March, also expressed joy over the release of the initial 104 Dapchi school girls from Boko Haram captivity.

Wakil, popularly called “Mama Boko Haram”, who appeared highly elated, said that she received the news of the release of the girls with “great joy.”

She commended the Federal Government and other parties who contributed to the development, and expressed the hope that the remaining girls including Chibok girls would also be released soon.

“I am highly elated over the release of the girls, it is a welcome development,” she said. Wakil had earlier indicated interest to work towards the release of the abducted girls.

Malam Bashir Manzo, the Chairman, Parents Association of the Dapchi Abducted girls, said that they were happy over the development. Manzo disclosed that they were currently taking head count of the girls, adding most of them had returned to their homes.

Similarly, Mr Maina Musa and Ayuba Alamson, parents of abducted Chibok school girls, expressed joy over the development. They, however, tasked the government to secure the release of the remaining school girls in insurgents’ captivity.

“It is disheartening that our remaining children are still languishing in the hands of Boko Haram insurgents in the past four years,” Alamson said.

Alamson noted that over 100 Chibok girls were in Boko Haram captivity since 2014. He called on the international community to support the Federal Government to secure release of the girls and others still in captivity.

One of the released Dapchi schoolgirls, Fatsuma Abdullahi, related how five girls died, while in captivity.

Abdullahi who spoke in Hausa language, said the five girls died as a result of the stampede caused while trekking. “Out of the five girls that died, I know only two of them – Aisha and Maimuna.”

She added that while with their captors, they were not treated badly.

“They gave us food, infact we cooked the meals ourselves, while we were kept in an enclosed place. And not even an airplane would see us”, she said

At Government Girls Science Technical College, where the Dapchi girls were abducted, a senior student of the school, said she will not return to the school even after Boko Haram returned nearly all 110 students kidnapped from the school.

Rakiya Adamu who is in SS2, was among the lucky few that escaped on that February 19, when dozens of her friends and schoolmates were kidnapped, said: “I will not go back to Dapchi again.”

She shared her horrific experience:“We were in school waiting for the Magrib prayer when we started hearing gunshots. We started running with our teachers, looking for where to hide. We ran and ran and jumped the fence, she said

“We became tired and ran into a nearby village where we asked for help. They (Boko Haram) wore army uniforms and were begging us to come. They said, ‘Come to us, we will help you!’”

The Chairman of the parents of the abducted girls, Malam Bashir Manzo, said he knew something bad was going to happen on February 19.

He said: “I felt somehow throughout the day. I knew something bad was going to happen to me. But I prayed to God to protect me from evil and other bad things.”

As it turned out, his daughter, Fatima, was abducted as she went to fetch water to break her fast that evening.

Another parent, Abdullahi Kawi, and father of kidnapped JSS2 student, Aisha, said the most traumatic part of the kidnap saga was the misinformation given the parents by the Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam.

The father of five – one boy and four girls – said: “People like me stoned the governor’s convoy because he lied to us when he knew how terrible we were feeling. I’ll never regret stoning him.”



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