The Principal of the secondary school in Chibok, Borno State where over 100 girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents has described as false, the claim by the Defence Headquarters that only eight of the pupils had yet to regain their freedom.
The denial on Thursday by the principal, Mrs. Asabe Aliyu, was corroborated by the parents of the girls, who said the military had by the DHQ’s claim shown that it could not be trusted to free their children and wards.
The DHQ spokesman, Maj.Gen. Chris Olukolade, had said on Wednesday that out of the “129 girls” kidnapped, only eight were still missing.
He was also quoted as having said that soldiers who freed the pupils released them to the principal.
But Aliyu told the British Broadcasting Corporation Hausa Service news monitored in Maiduguri, that apart from the 14 girls who escaped from their abductors on Monday night, she was not aware that any other had been released.
She said the claim by the military was “a blatant lie because I have not spoken to the Defence Headquarters spokesman.”
The parents of the abducted students also on Thursday came hard on the military, saying they were willing to go in search of them since the military had shown it could not be trusted.
The parents had after the news from Defence Headquarters thronged the school premises expecting to take their daughters home only to be told that they had not been freed.
One of the parents, who spoke to the BBC, said, “We were disappointed with the statement coming from Defence Headquarters’ spokesman that the girls were rescued. Our children are still in the bush and if the military has failed, we will go after the insurgents ourselves even if it means sacrificing our lives.”
As the denials came, Olukolade insisted that the principal gave the information that nearly all the girls had been freed.
He however said the military would reconcile the claims after which a clear response would be given.
“We want to reconcile the issues, when we do so, then we will speak on it,” the DHQ spokesman added.
Olukolade noted also that the military was intensifying efforts to ensure that those still in the abductors’ den were freed.
But the Borno State Government yesterday said that as of Thursday, it had taken custody of 30 girls.
The remaining 99, it added, might be with the military rescue team.
The State Commissioner for Education, Musa Kubo, who made this known in an e-mail to journalists explained that apart from the 14 who had earlier fled the insurgents’ camp, 16 others were brought in by their parents.
The commissioner’s mail read, “I am right at the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, the scene of the unfortunate abduction. At the moment we have taken custody of 30 girls.
“There is an increase of 16 students whose parents returned them to school after they ran home on the day of the attack. We had made announcements and called on parents whose children and wards ran home.
“The aim is for us to take proper account of our 129 pupils who were in the hostel on the day of that unfortunate attack. You may recall that 14 pupils had earlier escaped from captivity as explained by Governor Shettima on Wednesday.
“By our records of 129 pupils being at the hostel at the time of that unfortunate incident, we are expecting the return of about 99 pupils who might be among those said to have been rescued by the military.
“Myself, the principal of the school, parents, other pupils and residents are awaiting the return of our pupils. We have no reason to doubt or contradict Wednesday’s announcement by the Defence Headquarters, given the fact that the Military personnel are those leading the search and rescue operations along with civilian volunteers.
“We are very hopeful that perhaps, the freed pupils are safely with the military and being brought to us. We pray that not just all our pupils return in good health but also all the security agents and volunteers safely return in good health after a successful and patriotic rescue effort.”
He however appealed to “parents to remain prayerful and hopeful that by the grace of God all the pupils will return to us in good health.”
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima had on Wednesday said his government would give N50m to anyone that could provide an information that could lead to the release of the female pupils.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, has tasked security agencies to do everything possible to secure freedom for the remaining schoolgirls in the abductors’ den.
The speaker said they needed to close ranks in their search and rescue operation to ensure that the girls were freed.
In a message to mark the Easter, released in Abuja on Thursday, Tambuwal said freedom for the girls would be the most cheering news to parents this period.
He added that terror threats in the country were real and urged all Nigerians to unite to fight forces that had become their common enemies.
His message was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Imam Imam.
Tambuwal observed that Jesus Christ brought “salvation to the human race”, adding that Nigerians must reciprocate the gesture by serving God with commitment and love.
However, the death toll in Tuesday attack by some gunmen on Wukari, Taraba State has risen to 50.
Though the police claimed that only seven people were killed, initial reports had put the death toll at 20.
One of our correspondents gathered that among the dead were the elder brother of the State House of Assembly Committee Chairman on Information, Culture and Tourism, Daniel Ishaya Gani, and some security personnel.
The development came as leaders of the Tiv community in Taraba State asked their people to relocate to Jalingo, the state capital, for their safety.
Over 70 persons said to have been inflicted with varied degrees of injuries are presently receiving medical attention in hospitals in Wukari.
It was gathered that the hospitals in Wukari were overstretched, prompting the evacuation of more than 26 injured victims to the Specialist Hospital in Jalingo.
The Red Cross Officer in the state, Mr. Umar T. Waziri, confirmed to newsmen that there was crisis going in Wukari. He however said that it was not possible to ascertain the number of casualties. He said, “Our men are on the ground but for now, no information on the death toll. As we talk now, gunfire is still going on there.”
The spokesman for the Tiv community, Mr. Zaki Uosu, said at a conference in Jalingo on Thursday, that they were not satisfied with the current security arrangements in the state.
He expressed regret that the incessant attacks had targeted the Tiv in the state and had led to killings and destruction of properties.
Uosu accused chairmen of the councils, traditional rulers and the Divisional Police Officers of failing to protect the “defenceless innocent Tiv” from attacks by herdsmen.
He said, “We feel sad that despite the repeated attacks on the Tiv in Taraba State, nobody has come to our help.
“Silent killing of the Tiv by herdsmen is still rampant in most of the rural areas. We are scared by the rate at which the crisis is spreading and being defenceless and innocent of the happenings, we have to flee before it gets too late. We have therefore collectively resolved to take refuge in the state capital.”
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Joseph Kwaji, said that only seven persons were killed and that normalcy was fast returning to the area.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]