Leadership (Abuja)

29 April 2014

Nigeria: 15 Days After - Abducted Schoolgirls Ferried to Lake Chad

Photo: Screenshot
Islamists hold girls kidnapped from schools.

Some of the schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls' Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Borno State, have been ferried around Lake Chad basin by their abductors.

A Chibok youth leader, Dr Pogu Bitrus, who stated this during an interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), said there was a report that the girls were hustled to the neighbouring country.

He said, "We have a report that the sect might have divided the girls into different groups and separated them to make it impossible to get all the girls in one place.

"Since the girls were abducted from GGSS Chibok by the Boko Haram, we heard that the girls were separated. Some were detained in Sambisa Forest, some detained around Gwoza, Marte and Monguno axis.

"For almost two weeks the security forces left us in confusion regarding their glaring inability to rescue the schoolgirls and no information from the security that will calm the frustrated parents."

Bitrus has accused the government of not doing anything possible to rescue the final-year students of GGSS Chibok, adding that even if the government is doing anything possible to rescue the girls, it is not being revealed to anybody.

The search for the missing girls was then left in the hands of their hapless parents who rented 150 commercial motorcyclists, got some volunteers with cutlasses and bows and arrows and went into the forest determined to rescue their wards or die trying.

In the end, even they were forced to abandon the search when a warning came from the terrorists that if they didn't stop, they and their children would be killed.

When contacted, the spokesman of the state JTF, Col. Muhammad Dole, said he was not in the position to speak on the issue, and asked that the director, defence information, Brig-Gen Chris Olukolade, be contacted.

The military had earlier said that it was satisfied with the pace of its operations against Boko Haram extremists to rescue the abducted schoolgirls in Borno State.

"The morale of the soldiers is high and we are expecting to see more successes from the troops," Olukolade said.

We seek Nigerians' understanding - Military

The Defence Headquarters yesterday called for understanding on the abducted girls as efforts are being made to secure their freedom.

According to the spokesman of the military, Major General Chris Olukolade, every information received is under consideration.

When LEADERSHIP contacted Olukolade over the movement of the girls, he said: "The concern and anxiety from all quarters is quite understandable. Please be assured that much as the forces may not disclose details of action being taken to secure the freedom of the girls, every information received on the subject is duly analysed and acted upon as necessary.

"No information is being ignored in the concerted efforts to ensure the safety and freedom of the abducted girls.

"Though I may not be able to disclose details of action being taken to secure the freedom of the girls, I can assure you that every information received on the subject is duly analysed and acted upon as necessary."

Chibok youths stage protest in Lagos

In a related development, youths from Kibaki community in Chibok town, where 234 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, yesterday staged a peaceful protest in Lagos to register their displeasure over the development

Scores of protesting youths which include women and children, under the aegis of the Lagos State chapter of Chibok Youth Association, marched to the office of the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), located in Alausa, Ikeja, area of the state.

The protesters urged Fashola to pass on their grievances to President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State to ensure the safe return of the abducted girls.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr Yahaya Chiwar said the decision to take their grievances to the Lagos State governor was borne out of his outstanding track record in the area of securing lives and property of residents of the state.

He said the group was worried that 14 days after the girls were abducted there has been no positive news from the government concerning their safety or any chance of their being rescued.

Chiwar noted that what was more alarming was that after the parents of the abducted girls took it upon themselves to conduct a search in Sambisa Forest, they located the camp where the insurgents were holding the girls and immediately reported to the appropriate authorities, but were dismayed when no action was taken.

According to him, "Our parents had no choice than to come back home to inform the security authorities where the girls were being kept, but, your excellency, their parents have communicated with us yesterday (Sunday) and there is no information whatsoever that these girls have been rescued or in the process of being rescued.

"Therefore we as their brothers, and we have sisters in Diaspora, we have resolved that we cannot remain silent; we are here because of your commitment to security of lives and properties in the state.

"We believe the nearest authority to us is you, who is the chief executive of the state; we believe we can express our grievances to you and you can forward our grievances to the relevant authorities, particularly to President Jonathan."

While presenting a letter to Governor Fashola for onward transmission to President Jonathan, he said, "We believe that you will help us to ensure that our voice will be heard."

Governor Fashola, while responding in an emotion-laden voice, commended the members of the Chibok Youth Association for their courage and selflessness to stand for their daughters and sisters who were unfortunate victims of the nation's porous security system.

The governor, who condemned the abduction of the girls, pointed out that the act of hostage-taking is unthinkable and dehumanizing.

He said, "One can only imagine the kind of horror and grief the parents of these girls must be feeling. I am a parent myself and I understand it. If my children are ill I know the kind of frustration, fear and anxiety that I go through when they are ill, not to mention indescribable emotion that the parents of these girls are going through to know whether they are alive and where they are and what conditions they might be in. Even the girls themselves -- the kind of fear; it must be a traumatic experience for everyone involved."

Fashola urged the protesters not to have the notion that nothing was being done to rescue the abducted girls, affirming that the authorities might be careful not to take steps that would harm the girls in the process of trying to rescue them.

Boko Haram: Nigeria in war situation - IGP

Meanwhile, the inspector-general of police, Mohammed Abubakar, has called on all Nigerians to be more security-conscious as the country is in a war situation.

Abubakar, who spoke through the deputy inspector-general of police in charge of investigation, Mr Peter Gana, during a stakeholders' meeting on the security situation at the Police Officers' Mess, Ikeja, Lagos, yesterday, said "we are in a war situation and we need to be mobilised. We want to urge all of you to be more security-conscious".

Abubakar said criminals including terrorists are not spirits but human beings like us. "You are our eyes in the community and you are to give the police information because we are ever there for you.

"Everyone is supposed to police wherever he lives. It is better to raise false alarm than allow the worse to happen. We are happy with the Lagos State government who has highly mobilised the police; so whenever you suspect anything, contact the police immediately."

He advised the hospitality industry to educate their staff on security matters. "The hotel management can help us police the state by reporting .Private security operators and National Union of Road Transport workers (NURTW) can help us police the state by giving us information."

The DIG who was accompanied by the assistant inspector-general of police (AIG), zone 2, Mr Mamman Tsafe, and the commissioner of police in charge of Lagos, Mr Umar Manko, said the police high command was willing to take advice from the members of the public.

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