Friday, 20 June 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Presidential Panel Confirms 219 Chibok Schoolgirls Still Missing

 A total of 219 students of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, are still missing after the mass abduction carried out by members of the Boko Haram sect in the school on April 14.The 219 students were among the 276 girls said to have been snatched from the school during the midnight raid. The Chairman of the Presidential Fact-finding Committee on the Abduction of Chibok Schoolgirls, Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo (retd.), disclosed this on Friday while presenting the committee’s report to President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He spoke just as the President said school owners, especially those in the North East, must henceforth be ready to provide adequate security if they must keep students in boarding houses. Sabo said contrary to the opinion being held by some people that no student was abducted, his committee discovered that there was indeed a mass abduction at the school. He said during the siege on the school, 119 students managed to escape before their remaining colleagues were abducted. He added that among the 276 girls abducted, 57 girls managed to escape from their abductors while they were being moved through a zig-zag route. 

He said, “As most Nigerians already know, there were some persons who doubted whether, in fact, any student was abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok.“On the other hand, for those who believed that there was abduction, there were lingering doubts as to how such a number of kidnap victims were conveyed, considering also that information was sparse as to how the raiding insurgents evacuated the victims.“Mr. President, the Committee here wishes to lay to rest any residual doubt whether or not any student was abducted at Chibok. 

There was mass abduction on the night of 14th April, 2014.“During the siege on the school, 119 students escaped from the school premises, before the insurgents took away their classmates. A total number of 276 students were, thus, abducted.“As of today, 57 of the abducted students have been reunited with their families after escaping along the zig-zag transport route taken by the insurgents, or by bolting to safety when the insurgents laid-by for a rest. Sadly, 219 students remain unaccounted for.”While saying that the committee received full cooperation from all stakeholders it interacted with in the course of its assignment, Sabo took a swipe at an unnamed serving Senator from Borno State who he said refused to interact with them despite his earlier promise to do so. He said although the Senator’s action did not in any way affect the the committee’s findings, he had a motive for turning them down.“Indeed, the Committee interacted with persons and groups considered relevant to the realisation of our fact-finding mandate.“The singular exception was a Senator from Borno who, after agreeing to an appointment with the Committee, turned around to avoid the meeting, on the excuse that he had another appointment, and would thereafter be unavailable for another one month, or so.“Not that his non-appearance has materially, or in any way, affected the outcome of the Committee’s findings.

But the Senator’s avoidance of an interface with the Committee may well speak to a motive not too difficult to discern,” he said. Sabo said when his committee visited Chibok on May 29, tried as they could, the four girls who have reunited with their parents were hesitant to discuss the full details of their experience, citing the fear of possible reprisals from Boko Haram elements. He added that parents of other girls who escaped were hidden from the public glare, also because of the fear of reprisals. He said his committee was pained that the schoolgirls remain in captivity, saying the hostage situation that this represents was delicate. He said much as Nigerians and the rest of the world have been galvanised to drum up support for freedom for the Chibok schoolgirls, little will be achieved through finger-pointing.

Getting the girls out safely was more important than the publicity generated by the blame game that has tended to becloud the issue. Jonathan, in his remarks, said henceforth school owners especially in the North East who want to keep students in boarding houses must be ready to put in place basic security provisions that would ensure the students’ safety.