The Defence Headquarters, yesterday, retracted its statement that only 8 of the girls abducted by suspected Boko Haram gunmen were still missing.
The principal of the Government Girls College in Chibok and the Borno State government had said only 14 of the students escaped from the terror group’s hold, with the state government adding that a further 16 might have escaped.
The DHQ therefore said that there was no need to play politics with the lives of the students noting that as a result of the denial by principal and government of Borno State over the number of students released, it was retracting its statement on the rescue of the students.
A statement signed by Major General Chris Olukolade said: “In the light of the denial by the principal of the school, the Defence Headquarters wishes to defer to the school principal and Governor’s statement on the number of students still missing and retract that aspect of earlier statement while the search continues.
“The controversy that has been generated around the efforts at securing the lives of the abducted students of Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok is unfortunate.
“The ongoing frantic efforts of security forces along with vigilante groups including hunters working to locate and free the abducted students have continued to be keenly monitored at the Operation Centre of the Defence and Army Headquarters as regular progress reports are being received from troops on the ground.
“In this regard, a report was filed in from the field indicating that a major breakthrough had been recorded in the search. There was no reason to doubt this official channel; hence the information was released to the public immediately.
“Surprisingly, however, the school principal, one of the sources quoted in the report has denied all that was attributed to her for whatever reasons. This is an unfortunate development indeed, yet the Defence Headquarters would not want to join issues with anyone.
“It has to be reaffirmed, however, that the report forwarded to the public on this issue was in good faith and not intended to deceive the public as is being interpreted following the denials by the school principal and Government of Borno State.
“Like all other citizens, the military is deeply concerned to ensure that the students are safe and freed alive.
“There is indeed no reason to play politics with the precious lives of the students. The number of those still missing is not the issue now as the life of every Nigerian is very precious,” said the statement.