“The Borno state government also refused to relocate the students from Chibok to safer places like Maiduguri.”
The kidnap of over 250 schoolgirls in Chibok may not have occurred if the Borno State Government had heeded the advice of an examination body, fresh facts have emerged.
Aware of the poor security situation in Borno and worried about the safety of students, the West African Examination Council, WAEC, declined to conduct its Senior School Certificate Examination in unsafe parts of Borno, including Chibok.
But that was until the state governor, Kashim Shettima, assured of adequate security measures, an official has said.
The head of WAEC’s National Office in Nigeria, Charles Eguridu, stated this on Friday night in Abuja while answering questions from several women including First Lady Patience Jonathan, wives of state governors, female legislators at federal and state levels, and leaders of various women organizations.
The Borno State Commissioner of Women Affairs, Inna Galadima, stood in for the wife of the Borno Governor, Nana Shettima.
The event was organised by Mrs. Jonathan at the First Lady’s conference room, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mr. Eguridu said WAEC was initially reluctant to conduct its examination in Chibok and other troubled areas of the north-east because of the security challenges but had to buckle when Mr. Shettima assured the Council, in writing, that adequate security would be provided.
“Following the previous experience, we were afraid to go to the North-East this year, yet we risked it and asked for extra security through the Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike,” the official said. “We also asked the various state governments to relocate all the centres to the state capitals where there would be adequate security.”
“The three governors did not respond to our request but instead said they had made adequate security arrangements. The Borno state government also refused to relocate the students from Chibok to safer places like Maiduguri,” Mr. Eguridu told the women on Friday.
The WAEC official reportedly tendered the letters written to the governors of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe to prove his claim.
He also told the women that another factor that influenced WAEC’s decision to ask that all centres be moved to the state capitals was the death of three of its staff while conducting a similar examination in a school along the Yola-Maiduguri road, last year.
Schools in Borno had been shut following the various attacks by the extremist Boko Haram sect.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the state government, in a bid to ensure its students do not miss the SSCE examinations, asked final year secondary school students to resume studies.
The Borno governor, who initially declined transferring the final year students from centres in remote areas like Chibok to the state capital, finally agreed to do so after the kidnap, Mr. Eguridu said.
“Borno state government only agreed to relocate the remaining 189 pupils after the abduction of the girls,” he said.
The Borno Government is yet to react to WAEC’s claim. The Borno Education Commissioner, Musa Inuwa Kubo, did not answer or return calls made to his phone and was yet to reply to a text message enquiry as at the time of publishing this report.
The actual student figure
The WAEC boss also provided what appears the clearest clarification yet of the number of students in the Chibok school before the April 14 kidnap.
“Overall, 530 students registered for WAEC at the Chibok centre, 135 males and 395 girls,” the official said.
Mr. Eguridu provided the bio data, including photographs of all the 530 students that registered at the Chibok centre.
The centre was the Government Secondary School, Chibok, and was used as centre by both the students of the school and those of smaller villages in Chibok Local Government.
The actual number of girls still with the kidnappers is yet to be ascertained, although the school, the state government and the police all gave figures above 200.
About 50 of the girls initially declared missing have been reunited with their families with many of those escaping from their abductors.
Although the school is a mixed school, boarding facilities are only available for girls; which explains why they were the only ones in the dormitory when the suspected Boko Haram members arrived on the night of April 14.
To be able to ascertain the actual number of girls in the dormitory when the kidnap occurred and the number of girls still missing, the women, at the end of their meeting, resolved to invite all those involved in the administration of the school to Abuja to explain what actually happened.
Women vow more action
While speaking after the meeting, Mrs. Jonathan vowed to do everything possible to ensure the release of the girls.
“If they don’t release our girls, then they should be ready to kidnap me,” she said.
“If after three days the children are not released, we shall march to Borno. We shall march to Borno Governor, then to Senate President, David Mark, and the President of this country to tell them the truth,” Mrs. Jonathan said.
In a communique at the end of their deliberations, the women said they would do all within their powers to ensure that the girls are rescued from their abductors.
In the communiqué, the women stated:
“For us to provide the necessary solution, there are pertinent questions that we must ask and these include the followings:
“We are asking these questions so as not to rely on the rumours flying around. So we want to do a thorough job as women and concerned mothers.
“When we are through with these efforts, we may need to approach our elders in the north, the National Assembly and all those concerned to help us put an end to the killing of our husbands, our children and our people.
“We heard that all federal schools were closed in the state, but the Chibok school, which is a state school. Why will a state school be opened without providing adequate security while all other schools were closed?
“We also heard that WAEC was conducting exams when the students were abducted, so this meeting resolved that there will be a committee to be Chaired by the Borno State Governor’s wife.”
The women said members of the committee will include the wife of the senator representing the senatorial zone where Chibok is located, the wife of the member representing Chibok federal constituency, wife of the Chibok local government chairman, wife of the minister representing Borno State, and wife of the Chibok Village head.
The committee is expected to come along with the Chibok school principal, the security guard at the school, at least two teachers from the school, two teachers invigilating the WAEC examinations in the school, two matrons, as well as chairman and secretary of the school’s Parents Teachers Association.
The committee is also expected to come along with two parents whose children are still missing, two parents whose children escaped from the Boko Haram insurgents and two students that managed to escape, whose identity would be protected by the women.
The school principal was also asked to appear with the school’s register and the passport pictures of each of the missing girls.
“We also want to see the Chairman of Chibok Local Government, the Borno State Commissioner for Education, the WAEC Registrar, the Borno State Police Commissioner, and the Divisional Police Officer DPO of Chibok0”, the women said.
The women, at the Friday night meeting, also resolved to take more actions if the girls are not found.
“If the girls are not found by Sunday night, then we shall go to the Governor of Borno State first, the Senate President and later the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, led by the Mother of the Nation, Dame Patience Jonathan,” they said.
The women’s meeting continues on Sunday by 4:00 p.m.