The Dapchi town in Yobe where scores of schoolgirls are feared kidnapped in a Boko Haram attack on Monday had no military presence prior to the incident, despite being located in one of the three states where insurgency is more pronounced, the Defence Headquarters has told PREMIUM TIMES.
The Nigerian government stated on Sunday that an estimated 110 girls are missing by in the hours-long assault on Government Girls Science and Technical College by suspected Boko Haram on Monday night.
As anxiety grew amongst parents and anger flared amongst youth in the community, the state governor, Ibrahim Geidam, said the military should be held responsible for the tragedy, which came a little less than four years after 276 girls were abducted by insurgents in Chibok, Borno State.
“I blame the whole attack on Dapchi on the military and the defence headquarters who withdrew troops from Dapchi. The attack occurred barely a week after the military withdrew the soldiers from there,” Mr. Geidam said while receiving Ibrahim Shettima, his counterpart from neighbouring Borno State, Saturday.
“Before then, Dapchi has been peaceful, there was never such incident. But just a week after they withdrew the troops, Boko Haram came to attack the town,” he said.
Mr. Geidam said a similar situation played out in 2013 when Boko Haram invaded a school in Buni Yadi, another town in the state, and killed scores of schoolboys.
He said the insurgents struck a few days after the soldiers pulled out of Buni Yadi.
But the Defence Headquarters pushed back against the allegations on Sunday night, with its spokesperson telling PREMIUM TIMES that the governor was being mischievous.
“There were no soldiers stationed in Dapchi before the attack,” John Agim, a brigadier-general, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone. “The governor knew there was no military presence in the town.”
Mr. Agim said the closest military outpost was about 30 kilometres away. He declined to tell PREMIUM TIMES the specific location of the soldiers when asked.
Mr. Agim said the governor and other Nigerians should understand that the Nigerian military has no capacity to protect all the schools across the region.
The admission came amidst serious concerns of possible security lapses ahead of the attack.
For the most part, both federal and state authorities tight-lipped in the wake of the attacks, trickling out often contradictory statements.
The state government and the police first warned that the attack was not a kidnap, saying some of the schoolgirls might have gone to their villages without notifying school authorities.
The state government also announced that many of the girls had been rescued, a claim that turned out to be false.
The Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed, said initially said he couldn’t confirm that there was a kidnap before finally conceding on Sunday that 110 girls are missing.
Although Mr. Mohammed’s statement came a day after distraught parents compiled a list of 105 missing girls, it still fell short of admitting that the girls have been abducted.
But Goni Bukar, a member of the House of Representatives under whose constituency Dapchi lies, told PREMIUM TIMES the girls have been kidnapped.
“We have confirmed since yesterday that Boko Haram abducted the girls,” Mr. Bukar said. “We’re now praying and hoping that they’re returned safely.”