Nigerian military retracts claim it freed 107 abducted schoolgirls, says students are still missing

An apparently embarrassed Nigerian military on Thursday backtracked on its claim that it freed majority of the 129 female students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, abducted on Monday night by suspected Boko Haram members.

The spokesperson of the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, Chris Olukolade, had said 107 of the girls were freed in addition to the 14 that escaped from their abductors.

Mr. Olukolade claimed that following the rescue, only eight of the girls were still held captive by the insurgents.

But shortly after Mr. Olukolade’s statement was published, the principal of the affected school, Asabe Kwambura, as well as officials of the Borno state government, said the claims were untrue and that majority of the girls were still missing.

“There is nothing in the military statement that is true about our abducted girls,”  Mrs. Kwambura had said. “Up till now we are still waiting and praying for the safe return of the students; all I know is that we have only 14 of them, and the security people especially the Vigilante and the well meaning volunteers of Gwoza are still out searching for them.”

Mrs. Kwambura’s claim portrayed the military in bad light and angered several Nigerians, with some accusing the military and the Nigerian government of playing politics with the lives of the abducted girls.

Apparently rattled by the denial of its claim, the military on Thursday night issued a statement, saying it was deferring to the principal of the school and the Borno government on the correct number of girls that have so far been freed.

“In the light of the denial by the principal of the school, the Defence Headquarters wishes to defer to the school principal and Governor’s statement on the number of students still missing and retract that aspect of earlier statement while the search continues,” Mr. Olukolade said in a statement.

The defence spokesperson denied the military was playing politics with the rescue operation, saying the information he provided on Thursday was sourced from the field.

“There was no reason to doubt this official channel, hence the information was released to the public immediately,” Mr. Olukolade explained. “Surprisingly however, the school principal, one of the sources quoted in the report has denied all that was attributed to her for whatever reasons.   This is an unfortunate development indeed, yet the Defence Headquarters would not want to join issues with anyone.”

He added, “It has to be reaffirmed however, that the report forwarded to the public on this issue was in good faith and not intended to deceive the public as is being interpreted following the denials by the School principal and Government of Borno State.

“Like all other citizens, the military is deeply concerned to ensure that the students are safe and freed alive.  There is indeed no reason to play politics with the precious lives of the students.  The number of those still missing is not the issue now as the life of every Nigerian is very precious.”

Read Mr. Olukolade’s full statement below.

 

Joint Information Centre

Counter Terrorism Campaign

North-East Nigeria

c/o Defence Headquarters

ABUJA

 

JIC/CTC/NE/14                                                             17 April 2014

PRESS RELEASE

 UPDATE ON THE ABDUCTED STUDENTS OF GOVERNMENT GIRLS’ SECONDARY SCHOOL CHIBOK

The controversy that has been generated around the efforts at securing the lives of the abducted students of Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok is unfortunate.  The ongoing frantic efforts of security forces along with vigilante groups including hunters working to locate and free the abducted students have continued to be keenly monitored at the Operation Centre of the Defence and Army Headquarters as regular progress reports are being received from troops on the ground.

In this regard, a report was filed in from the field indicating that a major breakthrough had been recorded in the search.  There was no reason to doubt this official channel, hence the information was released to the public immediately.  Surprisingly however, the school principal, one of the sources quoted in the report has denied all that was attributed to her for whatever reasons.   This is an unfortunate development indeed, yet the Defence Headquarters would not want to join issues with anyone.

It has to be reaffirmed however, that the report forwarded to the public on this issue was in good faith and not intended to deceive the public as is being interpreted following the denials by the School principal and Government of Borno State.  Like all other citizens, the military is deeply concerned to ensure that the students are safe and freed alive.  There is indeed no reason to play politics with the precious lives of the students.  The number of those still missing is not the issue now as the life of every Nigerian is very precious.

In the light of the denial by the principal of the school, the Defence Headquarters wishes to defer to the school principal and Governor’s statement on the number of students still missing and retract that aspect of earlier statement while the search continues.

CHRIS  OLUKOLADE

Major General

Director Defence Information/Coordinator

 

 

 



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