• Says 6 girls unaccounted for • No information yet on Leah Sharibu –IGP
Chukwudi Nweje; Molly Kilete, Abuja; Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
federal Government has said 113 girls were abducted from the Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State, contrary to earlier reports that 110 were taken.
It also declared that six of the abducted students remained unaccounted for.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the disclosure when he spoke with journalists in Lagos, yesterday.
“A total of 111 girls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary and Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi on 19 February, 2018. That means one student was not captured on the list of 110 abducted students that was compiled by the school, on the basis of which the Federal Government gave the number of abducted schoolgirls as 110.
“Also kidnapped were two other persons, who are not students of the college. They include a primary school boy who came to the school to sell pure water and another primary school girl. That brings the total number of abducted persons on that day to 113,” he noted.
He said that 107 persons, comprising 105 Dapchi schoolgirls and the two non-students have been released by the insurgents.
“Six Dapchi schoolgirls are yet unaccounted for. All efforts will be made to secure their release,” he said.
Sources said five of the girls died in the custody of the insurgents as a result of stampede, exhaustion and trauma while Leah Sharibu was being held by the abductors over . Her freed colleagues said her refusal to change faith made the insurgents to deny her freedom.
Mohammed reiterated that the Federal Government neither paid ransom nor swapped the girls for any Boko Haram member.
“Unknown to many, we have been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now. The talks helped to secure the release of the police officers’ wives and the University of Maiduguri lecturers recently. And the talks did not stop thereafter.
“Therefore, we were able to leverage on the wider talks when the Dapchi girls were abducted. As I said earlier, the insurgents decided to return the girls to where they picked them from, as a goodwill gesture. All they demanded was a ceasefire that will grant them a safe corridor to drop the girls. This is not new. Even in larger war situations, safe corridors are usually created for humanitarian and other purposes. Consequently, a weeklong ceasefire was declared, starting from Monday, 19 March. That is why the insurgents were able to drop the girls. This counters the conspiracy theories being propounded in some quarters concerning why it was so easy for the insurgents to drop off the girls without being attacked by the military,” he stated.
He said the Dapchi girls were freed because the approach of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is a marked departure from that of the former president Goodluck Jonathan-led government after the Chibok girls were abducted in April 2014.
“Whereas it took that administration 18 days to even acknowledge the kidnap of the girls, the current administration was responsive and was not in denial. No stone was left unturned to secure the release of the girls.”
The minister also cautioned the public to be cautious of “fake news” making the rounds, especially that of a supposed Sergeant David Bako of the Nigerian Army, who said he was part of a conspiracy by the government to abduct the Dapchi girls.
He described ‘Sergeant’ Bako’s story as “a classic example of disinformation and fake news.”
“I can tell you categorically that this David Bako is fake. There is no such soldier in the Nigerian Army. There was no conspiracy anywhere. The intention of those behind the disinformation and fake news is to cause disaffection between Christians and Muslims and between southerners and northerners.
“This administration’s success in seeking an early release of the Dapchi girls has ruffled many feathers. It has upturned a lot of plans by naysayers. They have not been able to sleep since the girls came back. Their campaign to unseat President Buhari is fuelling their desperation. Nigerians should prepare to see more avalanche of disinformation and fake news,” he declared.
Meanwhile, the Police has said it has no information yet on the release of the last Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu.
It denied that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, said she would be released soon.
Force Public Relations Officer Moshood Jimoh, who made this known said the statement made by the IGP during his visit to the North-East was misunderstood and misquoted.
He said the police have no information yet on the release of the last Dapchi schoolgirl and urged the public and the media to disregard the purported statement, as that was not what the IGP meant.
“The statement of the IGP was misunderstood and misquoted. The misunderstanding may be as a result of the already released Dapchi schoolgirls expected back home in Yobe State today (yesterday) but could not arrive due to weather condition.
“The IGP could not also proceed to Dapchi because of same weather condition,” the police said.
Excitement in Dapchi as girls return home
There was celebration in Dapchi as the 105 girls freed last Wednesday and taken to Abuja to see President Muhammadu Buhari returned home, yesterday.
The girls were brought in buses with military convoy from Maiduguri arrived Dapchi at about 2pm to the warm welcome of their parents and relations who have been waiting for them upon hearing about the return.
“Everybody here is happy. They are joyful their daughters have returned. We pray the remaining girl will also be released soon,” Ali Dapchi, uncle to one of the freed girls said.
The girls were initially scheduled to return to Dapchi on Saturday after seeing President Buhari on Friday but the flight was reportedly cancelled due to poor weather.
One of the girls identified as Leah Sharibu is still being held by the insurgents.