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
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.”