How 104 abducted Dapchi girls regained freedom – FG
• Five die, one still held for not renouncing Christian faith
• It was an arranged abduction, Fayose, PDP allege
The Federal Government yesterday explained that the release of 104 out of the 110 Dapchi schoolgirls abducted last month by the Boko Haram sect was secured through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country.
It was learnt that the girls were let go by their abductors around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday. They were brought and dumped in a village by suspected Boko Haram terrorists. But five died while one is still being held because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who confirmed the release of the girls in a statement in Abuja, said it was unconditional.
According to the minister, the number of freed girls increased from 76 earlier announced to 101 as more of them regained freedom and were registered by the security agencies. But later it was learnt that the number of those rescued rose to 104.
He said the development was the outcome of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to all security agencies to do everything possible to secure the release of the pupils who were abducted on February 19, 2018.
“Within the period when the girls were being brought back, operational pause was observed in certain areas to ensure free passage and also ensure that lives are not lost,’’ he said.
Initially, the Nigerian Army could not confirm the report of the release.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Texas Chukwu, told The Guardian in Abuja that “We are yet to confirm the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls, but I will make contact with Damaturu to confirm if the report is true and I will get back to you,” he said.
Later, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) confirmed that the Department of State Service (DSS) led the negotiations for the release of the girls.
Acting Director, Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen John Agim, in a text message to The Guardian in Abuja yesterday said: “The girls were released through negotiations led by the DSS.”
The chairman of the school’s parents and teachers association, Bashir confirmed the release of the girls to an online medium in Yobe State. He said the abducted students were brought to Dapchi.
“My relatives and colleagues in Dapchi just informed me that the girls were brought this morning. I am heading to Dapchi now from Damaturu. When I get there, we will do a head count to see if all of them have been released, “ he said.
The freedom regained by the girls has elicited mixed reactions from eminent Nigerians and groups.
Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose described the abduction as an indictment on the Federal Government and their release as “drama scripted by the government and its agents to swindle Nigerians.”
“This appears like an arranged abduction and an arranged release, but we thank God that the innocent girls have returned home.
We condole with parents of those that died.”
In a statement yesterday, by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor said it was strange that the girls could be brought back to Dapchi by their abductors without the security agents knowing when they were returned and who returned them.
“Curiously, the same spirit who made sure that all military checkpoints in Dapchi and other surrounding towns were removed to pave the way for the abduction of the girls also made sure that the girls were returned without any security agent seeing them.”
The governor said the real script writers for the ‘drama’ would be exposed one day.
“Nigerians should recall that the Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam, said that military checkpoints were withdrawn from Dapchi and other communities a few days before the abduction of the 110 girls.
“This was also corroborated by the Amnesty International in its report that was published in the newspapers yesterday.
“Specifically, Amnesty International said that security forces failed to act on advance warnings that a convoy of Boko Haram fighters was heading to Dapchi town and that between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on February 19, 2018, calls were made to tell the security services that the Boko Haram insurgents were in the Dapchi area.
“No doubt, withdrawal of military checkpoints from Dapchi and other communities a few days before the 110 students were abducted and the failure of the security forces to act on advance warnings exposed the conspiracy of the Federal Government and its agents in the abduction of the girls and other dastardly acts of the insurgents.
“Interestingly, no one was questioned up till now despite conflicting claims by the army and police as well as the damning report by the Amnesty International that between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on February 19, 2018, calls were made to tell the security services that the Boko Haram insurgents were in the Dapchi area,” he said.
Fayose said those benefitting from Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) scams, payment of ransom (in dollars) to free those abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents, among others, would never wish to see the end of the insurgency.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chided the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the presidency for allegedly stage-managing the abduction.
PDP called on the United Nations (UN) and the International Criminal Court to “declare this evil by the APC Federal Government” a war crime against humanity and investigate the matter.
The opposition said it “considers as wicked, callous and tormenting to use innocent schoolgirls as pawns in an ignoble script that was designed to hoodwink Nigerians and orchestrate a great rescue and security prowess of a conquering general, all to push a 2019 re-election bid.” It added that this was an unpardonable gamble with human lives.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus and the party’s spokesman , Kola Ologbondiyan, at a press briefing in Abuja, said the government should release the report of a panel that probed how they were kidnaped. “Whether it was pre- determined, no body knows. Government should release the investigation report because there are doubts here and there.”
PDP alleged that the main aim of this “devilish act” was to delude the public, set the stage for an orchestrated rescue, create a heroic myth and false sense of achievement around the APC administration and serve as a spur for Buhari’s declaration to contest the 2019 presidential election.”
The party declared that there was no evidence that the Boko Haram insurgents or any militant group abducted the schoolgirls in the first place.
The leader of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement, Oby Ezekwesili, in her Twitter handle said: “What a testimony! Boko Haram took and Boko Haram returned! For the parents, we thank God! For Federal Government, this miracle must be deeply analyzed to replicate it for #ChibokGirls and other issues plaguing our country!”
The APC expressed happiness over the release.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, APC said the prompt release of the schoolgirls was another solid demonstration of the political will of the Buhari-led administration to secure the lives of all Nigerians.
“The APC government has demonstrated how government should respond to such situations. If the immediate past PDP administration had responded with similar alacrity, the Chibok schoolgirls would have been released or rescued. Instead, the PDP wasted several weeks wallowing in denial and conspiracy theories such that it was now left for the APC government to rescue many of the girls and rehabilitate them.”
The ruling party assured Nigerians that the current administration remained committed to securing the release of the Chibok schoolgirls still held in captivity by Boko Haram and ultimately rehabilitate and reunite them with their families and loved ones.
Others that hailed the release of the girls are the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Social Democratic Party (SDP); and the pan-Yoruba organisation, Afenifere.