Most of the 234 Borno schoolgirls in Boko Haram captivity have been ferried abroad to Chad and Cameroon after they were married off to sect members on N2,000 bride price each, an elder told Daily Trust yesterday.
The female students were taken from their hostels at the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok on the night of April 14.
About 40 had escaped in the days after the incident, but parents and school authorities said at least 234 of them were yet to be found.
Dr. Pogu Chibok, who is the leader of the Chibok Elders Forum, told Daily Trust yesterday that latest information available to them indicates that most of the girls have been taken to the neighboring Cameroon and Chad by their captors.
He said before they were ferried in canoes across the Lake Chad, a wedding ceremony was conducted at a town on the border with Cameroon where they were married off to Boko Haram militants.
He said N2,000 was paid as bride price on each of the girls to the specific Boko Haram members who took them from their school and who had assumed "ownership" of the students.
"They ferried them in canoes to Cameroon and Chad republic after they were wedded off to Boko Haram members who bidded (sic) and paid N2,000 each as dowries on their heads," Bitrus said.
"The dowry was paid to their captors, the very people who abducted them from their school. One of them who married one of the girls took her to a border town close to Cameroon where villagers saw her."
Following their abduction, the schoolgirls were thought to be first taken to the Boko Haram camps in the notorious Sambisa Forest. Reports later said villagers had seen the girls being conveyed in trucks to other locations.
Bitrus said yesterday: "So many sources have informed us that the girls have been taken to Cameroon. Many villagers said they saw the girls being transported in trucks and then in canoes.
"On Sunday they were taken to Dikwa area where they (Boko Haram) have a camp there. From there they took them to Marte, then Monguno before they were finally ferried in canoes. It was yesterday we got this latest report of them being married off to the insurgents by their captors."
He said sources in Cameroon told them that most of the girls were now being held at "an area where the Boko Haram operates in Cameroon."
'Crying day and night'
On whether military authorities were informed about the movements of the girls, Bitrus said: "The military was alerted on Tuesday about two weeks ago when some villagers saw many of the girls being transported in trucks, some with even their school uniforms. The villagers tried calling the senator representing the zone but they couldn't get him so they went to Bama barracks where they reported the matter.
"At the Bama barracks they were told that they must put it in writing, that that is the military tradition. At that time if the military had intervened they would have stopped them from reaching their destination.
"And the fact that for nearly two weeks we have been talking about this and nothing is being done, then there are questions we have to ask. Nobody did anything."
Bitrus sobbed as he spoke to our reporter yesterday.
"What is happening with the Nigerian nation? I think we demand some answers. Today it is happening to these unfortunate girls from Chibok, tomorrow it may be somewhere else and that is why all Nigerians must rally around us on this," he said.
"If these captors are trying to achieve a political point, I think the best thing is for us to try to make sure that they don't succeed but from all indications they are succeeding due to inaction of government. It is helping these people in achieving their objectives."
Earlier yesterday, Bitrus spoke to the BBC Hausa radio saying "parents of these girls have been angry that despite the existence of government, there has not been concrete effort from government on the matter.
"Female parents have been crying day and night, because nobody knows what government is doing about the whole issue. All that we read in the papers is that Nigerian Army have done this or that."
When contacted over claims that the military was informed of the movement of the schoolgirls, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, told Daily Trust: "The concern and anxiety from all quarters is quite understandable. Please be assured that as 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 analyzed and acted upon as necessary.
"No information is being ignored in the concerted effort to ensure the safety and freedom of the girls. Just pray for the successful outcome of all efforts please."