The Nigerian Army through the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole, the military’s anti-insurgency command in the North-East, on Monday, admitted that troops were redeployed from the Dapchi area before the abduction of the schoolgirls.
It added that the army “handed over the security of the area to the Nigeria Police Division.”
The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations and the Theatre Command’s spokesperson, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the military should not be blamed for the abduction of the schoolgirls as the troops handed over a “peaceful and calm situation” to the police.
Nwachukwu said the troops were redeployed in Kanama, on the Nigeria-Niger Republic border, to combat Boko Haram terrorists who were attacking a military location in the area.
The army spokesman said the military would not engage in a blame game with the Yobe State Government as it was making “efforts to rescue the abducted schoolgirls.”
Nwachukwu said, “Although this headquarters will not attempt to join in any blame game, it is to set the record straight. Several communities and local government areas that were hitherto under siege of the insurgents have been liberated and the insurgents pushed out. While troops continue to decimate the insurgents in the hinterlands, the security of the liberated communities and towns falls in the hands of the sister security agencies.
“Contrary to the comments being circulated, troops earlier deployed in Dapchi were redeployed to reinforce troops in Kanama area following attacks on troops’ location at the Nigerian-Niger Republic border. This was on the premise that Dapchi had been relatively calm and peaceful; and the security of Dapchi town was formally handed over to the police division located in the town. Troops’ redeployment was therefore done in tandem with the exigencies of operation and not as misconstrued.
“We will also like to assure the parents, government and the people of Yobe that we will not rest on our laurels in the search and rescue of the abducted schoolgirls and any other persons held captive by the terrorists.”
Military didn’t hand over to police, says Yobe CP
The Yobe State Commissioner of Police, Sumonu Abdulmaliki, however, said there was no time the military handed over Dapchi town to the police.
He explained that Yobe was a security emergency state being monitored by security agencies.
Abdulmaliki, in a statement he personally signed, said the military neither handed over any location to the police nor informed it of its withdrawal from any area.
He said, “The attention of the Yobe State Police Command has been drawn to a statement that… the security of Dapchi town was formally handed over to a police division located in the town.
“The statement by the military… is not correct, as there was no time that the military informed the police of its withdrawal or handed over its locations in Dapchi town to the police.
“The whole of Yobe State is still under security emergency with the police, the military and other security agencies battling to ensure a lasting peace.”
Buhari pledges release of abducted persons, hosts freed lecturers
President Muhamamdu Buhari on Monday promised that his administration would ensure the safe return of all those abducted by Boko Haram, including the 110 students of the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State.
Buhari stated this at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, while receiving three University of Maiduguri lecturers, one policewoman and nine other women rescued from the insurgents recently.
The President, who said he was “terribly saddened” by the separate abductions of his guests and killing of six others in June and July 2017, told them that all peace-loving Nigerian prayed for their safety.
He said their rescue on February 10, 2018, came to him and all Nigerians as a huge relief.
He said their path to freedom was protracted because different groups located in different spots were responsible for their separate abductions.
Buhari said, “Let me say that this government treasure all human lives particularly that of its citizens.
“Following your abductions, the security agencies were directed by me to do everything humanly possible to ensure the safe release of you and other persons under the hold of the insurgents.
“While government was fully aware of the expectations of your families and the general public for your immediate freedom, the path to your freedom was painstaking and protracted. This was because the groups responsible for your abduction were not only different, but based in different locations that if not properly handled could result in dire consequences.
“While thanking the security agencies and all those who facilitated your release, let me clearly reiterate the resolve of this administration to ensure that all persons abducted by insurgents are rescued or released safely.
“This is especially against the backdrop of the recent incident where another group of girls were abducted from Government Science and Technical Girls College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
“I have directed all security agencies to ensure the safety of our schools and students, as well as bring back the abducted girls to their families.”
Apart from working towards the release of those abducted, Buhari said his government would also work closely with all stakeholders, especially the United Nations and other donor agencies, towards rehabilitating and resettling all those displaced as a result of conflicts.
While saying he was mindful of the pains and injury meted out to people by the insurgents, Buhari promised that government would ensure that the insurgents were degraded and peace returned to the land.
The President also directed the National Youth Service Corps to issue certificate of discharge to Jummai Ibrahim, who was a corps member as of the time of her abduction.
She was supposed to have completed her service last year.
The Director General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura, took time to introduce the freed persons, including a final year student of UNIMAID.
Daura said based on the President’s directive that all abducted persons be rescued alive, the service chose the path of negotiation which was considered to be the safest.
He also disclosed that the negotiations mostly took place outside the country while the final one was held at the theatre of operation.
He said, “The negotiations took several months and the Department of State Services, with the support of the external elements of the group in the diaspora and support from friendly countries; and liaising with International Community of the Red Cross, made the rescue possible.
“The negotiations centred on conflict mitigation which include the fate of arrested members of the insurgent groups, especially government accepting to free those found not to be culpable in any criminal action.
“It also involved cessation of hostilities, especially the attacks with IEDs on innocent civilians, worship centres, schools and other public places in return for temporary stoppage of air strikes by helicopter gunships.
“Lastly, the negotiation was centred on the possibility of the Federal Government granting amnesty to those willing to surrender and ready to lay down their arms.”
One of the freed lecturers, Dr Solomon Yusuf, who spoke on behalf of others, described their rescue as a confirmation of the fact that the life of every Nigerian is important to the government.
He, however, appealed to Buhari for another job for him and his colleagues, saying going back to their base remained a nightmare for them considering their experience in the hands of the insurgents.
The lecturer said, “If there is an opportunity for us to be relocated and maybe given another job; sir, this is our golden request.
“But we appreciate everything; the sacrifice you have made for us, thank you sir.”
The Peoples Democratic Party has urged the National Assembly to open a full-scale investigation into the circumstances leading to and surrounding the abduction of 110 Dapchi schoolgirls.
It said the investigation had become imperative in the face of rising speculations and conspiracy theories in the public space.
The main opposition party said the speculation was fuelled by conflicting reports, alleged attempts at cover-up and disagreements among government officials and agencies regarding the incident.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Monday, said the National Assembly must take a critical note of the allegation by Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Geidam, who said the abduction was preceded by the withdrawal of troops guarding the troubled area.
He said, “The governor is the chief security officer of the state and his statement cannot be taken lightly or even dismissed by a wave of the hand by anybody or any government agency under any guise whatsoever.
“The PDP also urges the National Assembly to investigate the various conflicting reports that have characterised the abduction, particularly the initial moves by the Federal Government to deny the occurrence of this incident.
“We must not allow our national ambience to be filled with speculations from conspiracy theorists. Our lawmakers must therefore, in unravelling the matter, question all security agencies, particularly those operating in the area.”
He also urged the National Assembly to urgently come to the rescue of some of the parents of the abducted daughters, who were allegedly arrested and taken into custody for daring to demand to know the whereabouts of their children.
Ologbondiyan added that the Federal Government must be made to live up to the basic responsibility of protecting lives and property and also to be truthful to Nigerians at all times.
A Lagos-based security expert, Dr Ona Ekhomu, has advised the Federal Government to set up a special task force to rescue the Dapchi schoolgirls.
Ekhomu said the force, which must report to the National Security Adviser, should include accomplished investigative personnel from the Nigeria Police Force, the Military Provost, Department of State Services, the National Intelligence Agency, the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Civilian JTF and the academia.
In a statement on Monday, Ekhomu, who is the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, warned that if the Dapchi abduction was not handled as a “hot pursuit” investigative case, the nation might face huge reputational harm from the incident.
He said, “The Federal Government should adopt sound investigative strategies to rescue the Dapchi girls. It should also announce a reward of not less than N50m for information leading to the rescue of the girls.
“There should be an establishment of tips hot-lines to receive information. Confidential informant numbering system should be used in order to correctly identify and reward the informant who produces the clue leading to the rescue of the girls.”
Ekhomu advised the investigators to debrief the pupils who escaped from their captors.
“These pupils will have important information and clues which could be helpful to detectives,” he added.
NUT seeks 24-hour patrol of N’East schools
The Nigeria Union of Teachers on Monday said it was distressed by the attack on the Dapchi schoolgirls, and the inability of the government to immediately rescue them.
The NUT, in a statement by its Secretary General, Dr Mike Ene, demanded “an urgent upgrade of the security architecture, deployment of security personnel in all schools in the North-East and a 24-hour military patrol.”
Ene said, “The union is distressed by the news of the terrorist attack on the Government Science and Technical Girls College, Dapchi, Yobe State, with the resultant missing of as many as 110 pupils of the school. We are vexed by the security operatives’ inability to gather enough intelligence to avert the situation and their failure to swiftly move in to rescue the pupils.
“With this development, it has become evident that pupils, teachers and the academic activities in North-East Nigeria remain vulnerable.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the safe return of the Dapchi schoolgirls. The President must seek ways of bringing to an end the criminal activities of all terrorist groups in the region.
“The union also demands deployment of security personnel in all schools in the North-East and a 24-hour military patrol of all schools in the region.”Punch