FG un­der pres­sure to find miss­ing girls

Par­ents, US, NLC de­mand ac­tion DHQ says only 8 girls still miss­ing Shet­tima of­fers N50m re­ward for info Jonathan meets govs, se­cu­rity chiefs Youth vig­i­lantes join search ef­forts

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - From Hamza Idris, Ya­haya Ibrahim, Ibrahim Sawab (Maiduguri), Isi­aka Wak­ili, Ibrahim Kabiru Sule, Ron­ald Mu­tum, John Chuks Azu (Abuja) & Eu­gene Agha (La­gos)

The Federal Govern­ment came un­der pres­sure yes­ter­day to try to find more than 100 school­girls who were ab­ducted by sus­pected Boko Haram gun­men from a sec­ondary school in Borno State on Mon­day night.

Speak­ing separately, the United States Am­bas­sador to Nigeria Mr James En­twistle, the Nige­rian Labour Congress (NLC) and par­ents of the miss­ing stu­dents urged the govern­ment to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to res­cue the girls.

About 129 fe­male stu­dents were taken from the Govern­ment Girls Sec­ondary School Chi­bok, 130 kilo­me­tres south­west of Maiduguri. Some of them were re­ported to have es­caped fol­low­ing the break­down of the ve­hi­cle by which they were be­ing con­veyed.

Mr. En­twistle, who spoke in La­gos af­ter the open­ing of the 2014 edi­tion of a multi­na­tional mil­i­tary ex­er­cise, ex­pressed shock at the ab­duc­tion.

“That kind of in­ci­dent, along with the bomb­ing in Abuja, un­der­lines why my coun­try stands with your coun­try in the fight against ter­ror­ism. We will be help­ing in ap­pro­pri­ate way but our heart goes to all of those chil­dren,” he said.

For its part, the NLC, in a state­ment by its Act­ing Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Chris Uyo, urged ac­tion in res­cu­ing “these young and in­no­cent girls be­fore any more harm be­falls them.”

The congress urged for a fun­da­men­tal change of strat­egy in con­fronting the Boko Haram in­sur­gency.

Mean­while, par­ents of the ab­ducted girls yes­ter­day staged a protest in Chi­bok town’s mar­ket area over the han­dling of se­cu­rity is­sues by the Federal Govern­ment.

The fe­male par­ents blamed the ab­duc­tion of the school­girls on the fail­ure of govern­ment to tackle the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the area.

One of the protest­ing women, who spoke to the BBC Hausa ra­dio, said: “We have run out of pa­tience, and in­stead of re­main­ing at our homes, we bet­ter come out. We are many by the town mar­ket. You could see women here rolling on the ground in griev­ance.

“I was in a vil­lage when I got the in­for­ma­tion that my daugh­ter has been kid­napped. I rushed back and I could not see my daugh­ter, who is 19. How would I live now with­out my daugh­ter? I am dev­as­tated.”

She added: “What I am pray­ing for now is to see my daugh­ter again. Even if she is dead, I want to see her corpse.”

A res­i­dent of Chi­bok told the BBC Hausa ra­dio that people in the town have been ag­o­nis­ing over the in­ci­dent, as al­most each home has ei­ther a daugh­ter or a rel­a­tive among the ab­ducted teenage girls.

“If you will come to Chi­bok now, you would see fam­i­lies go­ing to their neigh­bors to con­sole for their miss­ing daugh­ters,” he said.

In Maiduguri, Gover­nor Kashim Shet­tima yes­ter­day an­nounced an of­fer of N50 mil­lion to any­one who pro­vides use­ful in­for­ma­tion which leads to the res­cue of the ab­ducted stu­dents.

He said at a news brief­ing that 10 stu­dents es­caped from Boko Haram cap­tiv­ity yes­ter­day, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of those who es­caped so far to 14.

“I want to make a pledge of N50 mil­lion for any in­for­ma­tion—rel­e­vant, cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion that will lead to the res­cue of these in­no­cent girls,” he said.

“I have been in con­tact with the prin­ci­pal of the school and District Head of Chi­bok and they in­formed me that 10 of the girls es­caped from the Boko Haram camp, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of those seen now to 14,” he added.

Shet­tima said the 10 es­capees were asked to be in­volved in the prepa­ra­tion of meals by the in­sur­gents and they took the op­por­tu­nity of wash­ing plates to flee the camp.

The gover­nor ex­plained that a to­tal of 129 fi­nal-year sci­ence stu­dents un­der­tak­ing ex­ams were at the school hos­tel when the at­tack­ers came. He said other sci­ence stu­dents were day stu­dents while the rest of the stu­dents were on hol­i­day.

But he added that the ex­act num­ber of ab­ducted stu­dents was yet to be as­cer­tained.

Shet­tima said a reg­is­ter had been opened for par­ents and guardians to make for­mal re­ports on miss­ing wards, and that so far 50 com­plaints had been filed.

The gover­nor said his govern­ment was will­ing to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to en­sure the stu­dents re­unite with their fam­i­lies.

He vowed to re­lo­cate to Chi­bok to­day to per­son­ally mon­i­tor the on­go­ing joint res­cue oper­a­tion by se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives around the Sam­bisa For­est.

“I wanted to go to Chi­bok but I was ad­vised against it be­cause of mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions go­ing on around there,” he said.

Shet­tima said the ab­duc­tion was “very trau­matic, dis­turb­ing and se­ri­ous mo­ment of trial for us as a people,” and added: “I want to ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­forts of the mil­i­tary in the task of bring­ing peace back to the state.”

DHQ: Only 8 re­main miss­ing

The De­fence Head­quar­ters in Abuja last night said only eight girls re­mained miss­ing as all the rest had been res­cued by evening.

In a state­ment, Di­rec­tor of De­fence In­for­ma­tion Ma­jor-Gen­eral Chris Oluko­lade said: “More stu­dents of the Govern­ment Girls’ Sec­ondary School, Chi­bok have been freed this evening in the on­go­ing search & res­cue op­er­a­tions to free the ab­ducted stu­dents.

“With this de­vel­op­ment, the Prin­ci­pal of the school has con­firmed that only 8 of the stu­dents are still miss­ing. One of the ter­ror­ists who car­ried out the at­tack on the school has also been cap­tured.”

In an ear­lier state­ment, Oluko­lade had said “more (stu­dents) have this af­ter­noon been freed as troops pur­su­ing the ter­ror­ists close in on the den of those be­lieved to have car­ried out the at­tack. A to­tal of 129 stu­dents had ear­lier been ab­ducted by a group of ter­ror­ists.”

Ear­lier in the day, there were ru­mours on so­cial me­dia that dozens of the ab­ducted girls have been found un­der a tree in the bushes around Sam­bisa. But cred­i­ble se­cu­rity sources said only two were seen “stray­ing” and were res­cued by soldiers.

The source said, “The oper­a­tion hasn’t been easy but there is pres­sure from all di­rec­tions on the need to res­cue the girls be­fore it is too late and we are mak­ing head­way.”

Daily Trust also learnt that hun­dreds of youth vig­i­lantes (lo­cally known as Civil­ian JTF) from Maiduguri, Bama and Dam­boa have joined the search ef­forts.

One of their lead­ers, who does not want to be named, said, “Over 700 of our mem­bers are now in the bush, giv­ing a help­ing hand to se­cu­rity agencies be­cause we know the ter­rain bet­ter. We feel it is un­ac­cept­able to al­low this im­punity to con­tinue be­cause if noth­ing is done, the ter­ror­ists would one day come and take our moth­ers.”

The se­na­tor rep­re­sent­ing Borno South, Se­na­tor Mo­hammed Ndume, also con­firmed the in­volve­ment of the ‘Civil­ian JTF’ in the res­cue ef­forts.

He told the BBC Hausa ra­dio: “Se­cu­rity and those youths, pop­u­larly known as the Civil­ian JTF, are fol­low­ing up the route…. I spoke to the se­cu­rity and they told me they are in the bush. You know this bush that is be­tween Chi­bok and Dam­boa is a very big one, be­cause it links up to Yobe and borders a neigh­bor­ing coun­try.”

Ndume, while re­spond­ing to a ques­tion on whether there were se­cu­rity per­son­nel in Chi­bok be­fore the school at­tack, said “even op­po­site the school in Chi­bok, there were about 50 soldiers de­ployed. Only that these people came around 12 mid­night.”

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