Musdapha Ilo, Maiduguri
The Nigerian Army says it does not have an authentic list on the number of school girls kidnapped from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, nearly three weeks after the incident, and that it is still working on a speculation that 227 of the students are missing.
Briefing newsmen on Thursday on the efforts of the military, the Borno State Commissioner for Police, Tanko Lawan, who was flanked by the Director of the Department of Security Services, DSS, Ahmed Abdullahi, said security agencies do not know for certain how many girls were kidnapped and have been merely working on a speculation provided by the school authority.
Lawan appealed to parents and guardians of the abducted students to come forward with the pictures and names of their missing children so as to enable the Army compile a comprehensive authentic list of the victims.
He explained that about 530 students drawn from five schools in Lassa, Ashiga Shiya, Warabe A, Izge and Chibok because of the insecurity situation in the state, were writing their examinations at the school, raising fears that the number of missing student could be higher.
According to him, from the speculated 276 missing school girls, 53 have now regained their freedom, leaving those that are still in captivity at 223.
“It is incumbent on the parents to come forward with pictures and the names of the abducted students in order for us to properly document,” he said.
Lawan said security agencies in Borno State could be reached by anyone with useful information on whereabouts of the girls through the following telephone numbers: 08075897377, 08081777309 and 08036121490.
But the stunning disclosure that the military does not yet have a comprehensive list of the abducted girls contradicts a statement by the state Governor, Kashim Shettima, on Thursday when he said that the state indeed has a list of all the kidnapped students including their photographs.
Governor Shettima who was reacting to a statement credited to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Women Leader, Kema Chikwe, which raised doubt on the abduction of over 200 female students from the school, even dared to publish the comprehensive list of missing girls on Friday (today) if permitted by the defence headquarters.
The governor said, “Our fear is not to reveal names that would reveal religion and family backgrounds which could at the end, compromise the safety of these girls; provide basis for families to be reached with demands for ransom or be accused of undermining rescue efforts or sensationalism.”
He added, “In addition to these, abduction of girls are sometimes interpreted to mean automatic rape, where the identity of these girls are revealed, they could be stigmatized even after being rescued.”
The military, however, said that it has received a lot of information in the efforts at securing the freedom of the girls, but that most of it which have been reported in the media “have always turned out to be spurious and of no operational use.”
It said disturbingly, some of them have been mischievously sensationalized and publicized with a view to heightening tension and inflicting more pain on the nation as envisaged by the terrorists.
In a statement issued by the Director of Defense Information, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, the military said that some of the information being peddled around were actually a ploy to distract it from its goal of dealing with terrorism and other violent crimes aimed at crippling the nation.
It, however, assured that it will remain disposed to receiving, analyzing and applying all relevant information on this issue.
Olukolade said that the Defence Headquarters has no longer wants to be saddled with the responsibility of providing information on the Chibok kidnap and that henceforth progress reports on the search will be handled by the Borno State government.