‘Boko Haram ab­ducted 270 stu­dents’

Daily Trust - - NEWS - From Hamza Idris, Ya­haya Ibrahim (Maiduguri) & Ibrahim Kabiru Sule (Abuja)

The num­ber of girls ab­ducted by sus­pected Boko Haram in­sur­gents from a school in Borno State is nearly twice the fig­ure given ear­lier by the school and state of­fi­cials.

The girls were ab­ducted from Govern­ment Girls Sec­ondary School, Chi­bok two weeks ago.

The school prin­ci­pal an­nounced soon af­ter the ab­duc­tion that 129 stu­dents were taken but that some es­caped.

But yes­ter­day when Borno State Gover­nor Kashim Shet­tima vis­ited the school, the prin­ci­pal and distraught par­ents said the num­ber of girls miss­ing stands at 234 while those that es­caped from their ab­duc­tors are 39.

Par­ents who heard of the gover­nor’s visit thronged the venue of the meet­ing and filed 234 com­plaints of miss­ing school­girls.

An of­fi­cial who pre­ferred not to be named ex­plained that the mix-up arose be­cause arts stu­dents who had fin­ished their ex­am­i­na­tion did not leave the school as pre­vi­ously thought.

The of­fi­cial said, “From what I learnt, there were 129 sci­ence stu­dents at the hos­tel. They had not com­pleted their ex­ams and were ex­pected to re­main in the hos­tel. Then, there were over 105 arts sub­ject stu­dents who had com­pleted their ex­ter­mi­na­tion and were ex­pected to leave the hos­tel in the evening of that day hours be­fore the at­tack. Un­known to the dor­mi­tory mas­ter, the art stu­dents re­mained at the hos­tel and were part of those ab­ducted. The man gave his record of 129 sci­ence stu­dents as those ab­ducted not know­ing there were more.”

One of the par­ents, Shet­tima Haruna, who spoke dur­ing the gover­nor’s visit yes­ter­day said, “234 girls are still miss­ing while only 39 were re­united with their par­ents.

“We have been hav­ing sleep­less nights for nearly 10 days-since the day our in­no­cent daugh­ters were taken away. We waited pa­tiently to see what the cus­to­di­ans of se­cu­rity would do but we could no longer en­dure.

“We sum­moned courage and vis­ited Sam­bisa For­est to res­cue our daugh­ters but our ef­fort did not yield re­sults be­cause of the com­plex­ity of the for­est.

“We want to seize this op­por­tu­nity to thank you (gover­nor) for com­ing to iden­tify with us at this sor­row­ful mo­ment; but the truth of the mat­ter is that only 39 out of over 270 stu­dents were so far res­cued, and we want to em­pha­sise that we are not happy with this de­vel­op­ment.

“In as much as we con­tinue pray­ing for the safe re­turn of our daugh­ters, we want to ap­peal to govern­ment and our se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives to please in­ten­sify the search for our miss­ing in­no­cent chil­dren.”

An­other par­ent, Malam Amos Chi­roma, said when they reached Sam­bisa For­est, they had to beat a re­treat be­cause of the fright­en­ing things they came across.

He said they came across dif­fer­ent make-shift camps owned by sus­pected in­sur­gents.

“We had to with­draw be­cause we may likely dis­ap­pear…we had to for­get the search even though we are all des­per­ate to see our miss­ing daugh­ter,” he said.

The par­ents of the ab­ducted girls could not hold back their tears as they ap­pealed to the gover­nor for help to find the girls.

Re­spond­ing, Gover­nor Shet­tima said he shared their grief as­sur­ing that hu­man and ma­te­rial re­sources would be de­ployed to­wards res­cu­ing the girls.

“They (Boko Haram) can burn phys­i­cal struc­tures but can­not de­stroy our souls. I want to en­cour­age us to be pa­tient be­liev­ing that we would soon get over this,” Shet­tima said.

In her lat­est ac­count of the in­ci­dent, the prin­ci­pal of the school, As­abe Kwambura said, “The to­tal num­ber of miss­ing fe­male stu­dents now stands at 230. Ini­tially be­fore the ar­rival of the gover­nor 234 were miss­ing but we just re­cov­ered additional 4 fe­male stu­dents.

“The num­ber of girls re­cov­ered so far is 43. It is only 43 girls I have re­cov­ered and handed over to their par­ents. The ini­tial 129 fig­ure I gave were those that sat for ex­ams on the day they were ab­ducted.

“The to­tal num­ber of board­ing fe­male stu­dents is 405; this means that out 405, 230 are still miss­ing. But the other is­sue is that out the 230 miss­ing girls, some of them had ran home to meet their par­ents and we have not re­ceive any in­for­ma­tion from them.”

In a state­ment he on Sun­day, Gover­nor Shet­tima’s spokesman, Isa Umar Gusau, had said 52 girls have es­caped from their ab­duc­tors.

“Seven more girls es­caped from cap­tiv­ity, bring­ing to 52 the num­ber of those with us out of 129 stu­dents that were at the hos­tel on the day of the at­tack. This means 77 stu­dents are yet to be found,” he had said.

Mean­while, some youth vig­i­lantes, also known as civil­ian JTF, have ac­cused some mil­i­tary com­man­ders of dis­cour­ag­ing troops un­der their com­mand from ad­vanc­ing into the Sam­bisa For­est.

Most of the youths who spoke to our cor­re­spon­dents in con­fi­dence said some­thing must be wrong some­where, point­ing out that the res­cue oper­a­tion should not have taken this long.

One of them said, “We were go­ing into Sam­bisa to­gether with some soldiers…in fact, we even sighted one of the camps from a dis­tance but the com­man­dant said we have to with­draw and wait for fur­ther di­rec­tive from above.

“Some of us were re­ally an­noyed be­cause we be­lieve if we can get lit­tle sup­port, we would con­front the in­sur­gents.”

An­other vig­i­lante won­dered why fight­ing equip­ment will not be de­ployed to Sam­bisa For­est. “Is like the in­sur­gents have been al­lowed to keep on breed­ing… send­ing threat mes­sages to lo­cal­i­ties and at­tack­ing them at will,” he said.

Par­ents of the ab­ducted school­girls weep­ing when Borno State Gover­nor Kashim Shet­tima vis­ited Chi­bok yes­ter­day.

Gover­nor Kashim Shet­tima and Se­na­tor Mo­hammed Ali Ndume ad­dress­ing par­ents of ab­ducted girls in Chi­bok town yes­ter­day.

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