21 April 2014

Nigeria: Abduction - 234 of Our Daughters Still Missing - Parents

Photo: Chika Oduah
A boy holds up a photo of his 19-year-old sister, Deborah Solomon, one of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants.

Maiduguri — In a confusing twist of facts over the actual number of female students abducted by the Boko Haram terrorists in Chibok town last week, parents of the missing girls, have said 234 of their daughters are still missing.

The parents made this known when the state governor, Mr Kashim Shettima visited the affected school on Monday.

This is as the search party, mostly parents and volunteers from Chibok had to return home having been warned against the dangers of moving into the main enclaves of the Boko Haram at the heart of Sambisa without adequate security or weapons.

The parents of the missing students also faulted the claims of government officials that 45 of the girls had escaped and got reunited with them. They insisted that only 39 girls had escaped so far.

The Principal, Mrs ASabe Kwambura still insisted that the number of girls reunited with their parents was 43. She went on to bring a little bit confusing angle to whole conundrum of figure by quoting that it was only 129 science students that were in the school on the day of the attack; and that the total number of girls on boarding was 405, and that that 230 are still missing.

The school principal, Mrs Asabe Kwambura, and the state Commissioner for Education, Musa Inuwa Kubo, had both said only 129 students that were taking science exams were remaining in the school, and that 45 of them had been reunited with their families after they had escaped captivity.

But the parents insisted that the number of students in the school were more than 129, they argued that some of the girls who were not taking the science exams were still in school waiting for their friends in science classes to finish up before they would all leave the school together.

At the school premises, governor Shettima was conducted round the completely burnt school. The commissioner for Education said the school was set ablaze after the students were taken away by the abductors.

One of the parents, Shettima Hamma, said "we have trailed the abductors of our daughters far into very dangerous places inside the forest, but we couldn't go far because we were warned against going further since we have no sophisticated weapons that could match that of those holding our daughters.

"When we heard that they have attacked the school, we rushed down here but found our daughters missing," said Hamma.

"We were asked to register the names of our daughters, which we all did, but up to this moment we have not seen 234 of our daughters; we have only seen 39 of our daughters that were able to escape on their own.

"We had walked into the forest for over 50km until we got to a place where we saw two houses and plenty women about a dozen of them; they could not help us, so we continued until we came to another hamlet where we were told that if we followed a tiny footpath ahead, it would lead us to where the abductors took our daughters; we thanked them and proceeded through the path and continued to walk under low but thick threes, we walked for about 25km without seeing the sky or the sun; the whole place was dark because the thick tree branches shielded the sunlight.

"After some hours of walk, we came to a stream with a locally made bridge, we walked over the bridge, everywhere was quiet, but we continued moving and searching until we met a Fulani herdsman, who urged us to move ahead of the route we were following; that we would see our daughters , because he too saw them being taken away by the Boko Haram members; many of our young men got lost in the forest, because it was too thick and large.

"We continued to move on until we arrived a junction of the foot path that leads to Konduga and the other to Damboa town; there, we asked an old man who was surprised seeing us riding on motorcycles. We told him our mission and he confirmed to us that, of course, he saw our daughters with the abductors.

"He said the girls were brought down from the truck and made to trek into the forest ahead; he pointed to us the direction they took them, but warned us that if we ventured to proceed into that part of the forest without any security personnel following us we would all be killed together with our daughters; he advised us that we should try and go back to Damboa and get more security agents to help, lest we would be embarking on a dangerous mission. We took his advice and began to return home, while few members of our group went back to Damoba; many of our young men had been lost on our way back, it took them more than three days to get back to Chibok."

A parent, Musa Muka, who could not hold his tears as he kept weeping uncontrollably told LEADERSHIP that his 17-year-old daughter, Martha Musa, was among those abducted.

"I have not seen my dear daughter, she is a good girl, we plead with government to help rescue her and her friends; we pray nothing happens to her".

Senator Muhammed Ali Ndume, who was there with the governor as a representative of the area at the Senate, could not control his emotions as he addressed the parents, describing the abduction as the worst that could ever happen to any parents.

"We are all touched by the incident concerning the abduction of our daughters," Senator Ndume said.

"I am a father too; I have ten children, and everyday, I put my children in the position of these girls currently in captivity and I weep for them. I weep for the poor parents. My heart goes to you all, so is our governor here. But you should know our limitations here in the state concerning the security deployment, neither the governor nor I have control over our security; we can only plead with the federal government to assist us. But be assured that we are doing our best to see that these girls are freed in one piece.

Governor Shettima, who could not also hold back his emotions, simply empathised with the parents, describing the abduction as the worst of Boko Haram's insurgency, and which, he said, the security operatives were doing their best to see that the girls were rescued unhurt.

On the controversy about the figure, the principal, who appeared confused, made another clarification to journalists that "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."

She added that "the number of girls recovered so far is 43. It is only 43 girls I have recovered and handed over to their parents."

On why she was giving initial figure of 129, the principal said "the 129 I gave were those that sat for Physics 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."

She still insisted that the total number of abducted girls was less than the 234 the parents were quoting.

"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 received any information on them. It will also interest you to note that the school was initially Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) Chibok, but in 2011, it became Government Secondary School Chibok which now allows for combined male students; so the entire students population, including the day students which are boys is 530," said Mrs Kwambura.

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