Three days after a suspected Boko Haram assault on a high school in Yobe State, the police and the state government have provided different figures of the number of missing girls.
While the police commissioner in Yobe told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday evening that 30 female students were yet to be accounted for, the state government released a statement on Wednesday evening saying over 50 students were yet to be located as at Wednesday afternoon.
The girls were students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Bursari Local Government Area, Yobe State, a state government-owned school.
The uncertainty comes as President Muhammadu Buhari asked three ministers to immediately visit the state for an urgent assessment of the situation. He also asked the military and other federal security agencies to take maximum charge of the security situation around the affected community.
Suspected Boko Haram operatives on Monday stormed the school carting away foodstuff amongst other valuables.
Reports also emerged that the insurgents seized scores of girls at the school, although official confirmation of this had been difficult.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered from the police that some of the students have not been found
"The total number of students at the school 906. As at yesterday, we had counted 809. After that, we started locating them in one or two, But the school authorities have not been able to account for 30 students," Yobe police commissioner, Sunmonu Abdulmaliki, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Wednesday evening.
But the police chief warned that the public should not take this to mean that they were kidnapped.
"It is not impossible that some of them even left for home without telling the school authorities.
"As I am talking to you, I have no evidence to say that they were abducted or they were not abducted," he added.
Mr. Abdulmaliki said the military had taken over the search efforts. He appealed to the media to play down on speculation to enable officials better concentrate on the emergency situation.
"I am appealing to the press to please allow the military to continue their work because we're in an emergency situation and the military is taking the lead
"Now we just heard that they sighted them somewhere and the military is heading to the scene," he said.
Abdullahi Bego, a state government spokesperson, said the state did not know the whereabouts of 50 girls, but also warned that it should not be misconstrued as an admission that they were kidnapped.
"Out of the 926 students in the school, over 50 are still unaccounted for as of the time of this statement," Mr. Bego said in a statement. "However, the Yobe State Government has continued to receive information about some of the girls being found in the general area to which they escaped."
"The state government is coordinating with the army and law enforcement to ensure that those girls are returned safely.
"The Yobe State Government has no credible information yet as to whether any of the schoolgirls was taken hostage by the terrorists," he added.
The attack comes almost four years after Boko Haram gained worldwide infamy for abducting about 276 girls at Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
Scores of the girls have been freed in separate deals with the Nigerian government, but more than 100 are still yet to be found.
Although its details were still murky, the Yobe incident has brought back memories and fears of the Chibok girls kidnap, which gained worldwide media attention for several months.
The state shares a border with Borno, which is home to the massive Sambisa forest that the Chibok girls were said to have been kept for years after their abduction.
Many of the girls were reported to have fled in different directions after the insurgents entered their school premises on Monday. One of the escaped girls told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday that she saw their attackers pushing some of her schoolmates in a truck and drove away with them.
But Mr. Abdulmaliki said the school is currently on a one-week break to enable the authorities to resolve the crisis but insisted that the police have no confirmation of any kidnap.
"As I am talking to you now, there's nothing on my table to say that they were abducted or not abducted, but we have not been able to account for about 30 of them."
The police commissioner said he had been to the school for a physical assessment.
Goni Bukar, a federal lawmaker representing Bursari and two other local government areas in Yobe State, told PREMIUM TIMES he rushed back to his constituency following the attack and had been to the school.
"I am on the ground with the school authorities at the school premises now, but I cannot confirm that any girl has been kidnapped, we don't have that information yet," Mr. Bukar said.
Mr. Bukar added that security measures around the around had been intensified.
"The SSS, the Nigerian Army, the police and others are here with us and making frantic efforts to ascertain the situation of things," the lawmaker said. "We hope to have concrete information by tomorrow, once we do, we'll let Nigerians know."