Forty-eight of the missing 94 pupils of the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, have come out of hiding.
The Yobe State Commissioner for Education, Mohammed Lamin, who stated this in Damaturu, added that the state government had organised search parties to look for the remaining 46 pupils.
Lamin explained that the school registered 28 missing students that returned on Tuesday, saying 20 more were received from Magwaram village on Wednesday.
He said, “This has brought down the number of missing pupils from 94 to 48 as of this morning (Wednesday). We are still hopeful that more pupils will return soon.”
The commissioner asked parents to report to the school whenever their children arrived home.
An anonymous source in the school told our correspondent that the 28 students that returned were rescued by villagers from bushes around Dapchi town.
The source said, “Some of the children trekked between 15 and 20 kilometres in the bush to save their lives. We have also received calls from Fulani settlements that they are bringing more students they found in the bush.”
“So far, no dead body has been recovered, but we heard that one pupil was bitten by a snake. She was said to have been treated locally. But she would be taken to a hospital in Damaturu for proper attention.”
It was gathered that a combined team of security operatives had been drafted to the area to search for the remaining missing students.
The governor in a statement by his spokesman, Abdullahi Bego, said, “The Yobe State Government is working with the Nigerian Army and other security and law enforcement agencies to ensure that all students in the school are fully accounted for.
“As the public is aware, the pupils were helped by their teachers to escape to the surrounding bushes and villages as terrorists stormed the town on Monday.
“Many pupils are still unaccounted for, but the Yobe State Government has been receiving the girls that were found in the general area to which they escaped.
“The government is coordinating with law enforcement agencies to ensure that those girls are returned safely.”
“The Yobe State Government has no credible information as to whether any of the schoolgirls was taken hostage by the terrorists.
“The Yobe State Government assures parents and the school community that it will do everything necessary to ensure that all the missing girls are found and returned to their school and families and that security is improved in the area.”
The state government, in another statement send around 10pm, said more pupils had been rescued by by “gallant officers and men of the Nigerian Army from the terrorists who abducted them.”
The government further stated that the “rescued girls are now in the custody of the Nigerian Army.”
“We will provide more details about their number and condition in due course,” the statement added.
Buhari sends three ministers to Yobe
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday directed the military and other security agencies to immediately take charge of Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mohammed said the President gave the directive immediately after he was informed of the development.
He added that Buhari had asked him and two other ministers to visit the school on Thursday (today).
He listed the other two ministers as the Minister of Defence, Monsur Dan-Ali; and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.
Mohammed said, “Mr. President has directed military and other security agencies to take immediate charge and control of Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, after he was informed of the development.
“He has released a delegation, led by the Minister of Defence, to Dapchi to get first hand information as to what is happening there tomorrow (Thursday).
B’Haram did not abduct any pupil –Police
Earlier, the Yobe State Commissioner of Police, Mr Abdulmalik Sunmonu, said none of the girls was abducted by Boko Haram terrorists during the attack.
“The area in question has a vast expanse of land bordering Borno State; and most of the girls who ran into the bush in the wake of the attack would have to travel long distances to get to where they can get help.
“My command, in conjunction with the military, is on top of the situation. The school has been closed down for one week and the area has been reinforced with enough security,” the CP said.
On the efforts the police are making to prevent future attacks on schools in the state, Sunmonu said the police and the military had been sensitising the people to be security conscious and give security agencies information.
Also, the spokesman for the military counter-insurgency operation in the North-East, Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the military could not say if there was any abduction in the school.
He said, “The information so far received is that the principal of the school dispersed the students on hearing continuous shootings before the insurgents arrived on the school premises.
“So far, no destruction of property or killing has been reported. But there were cases of looting of food and provisions. Our troops have moved into the community.
“The attack on Dapchi is diversionary because of the heat on the insurgents by our troops in the ongoing operation Deep Punch II.”
Mr. Ibrahim Jato, a relation of Miss Fatima Yakubu, one of the schoolgirls that escaped the attack, told one of our correspondents that the attackers started firing metres away from the hostel, making the girls to quickly run for safety.
“The situation would have been worse if the attackers did not fire, but quietly invaded the school.
“Fatima is still in shock and cannot talk now, but she will talk in days to come,” he said.
No national plan on schools’ security, says minister
Nigeria lacks a national plan on safety and security for schools, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said on Wednesday.
This is coming as stakeholders who spoke at a National Roundtable on Security and Safety of Schools in Nigeria told the minister that the abduction of students from schools was largely due to the absence of a national policy on schools’ security.
They noted that the absence of such a policy had made it easy for hoodlums to abduct schoolchildren without encountering resistance.
Speaking on the sidelines of the roundtable which was organised by the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Adamu, who was represented by the Assistant Director, Basic and Secondary Department, Federal Ministry of Education, Ernest Udoh, said the initiative by WARDC on security for schools was laudable.
He said, “The move for a policy to provide security for schools is good, but it doesn’t mean that government is not doing enough with respect to securing schools. However, presently there is no national plan or policy on security for schools.”
The Founding Director, WARDC, Abiola Akiyode, said the minister’s statement that there was no national plan on security for schools had shown that the country needed to establish policies to protect schoolchildren.
She said, “Today the representative of the minister said there is actually no national plan for safety and security of schools. And what that shows us is that there is a need for us to begin to prioritise issues that will better the lives of our people.
“Security concerns in schools have been happening since four or five years ago. By now as a country, we should have some kind of policy that should intervene in this matter. We should expect the National Assembly to be looking at what policy framework can be put in place to help address the continued kidnap and abduction of children in schools.”
PDP expresses shock, tasks IGP
The Peoples Democratic Party says it is shocked by reports that 94 schoolgirls were missing after insurgents attacked the Girls Secondary School Dapchi, Yobe.
A statement issued by the Spokesman for the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja on Wednesday said the former ruling party was very disturbed by the ugly development, especially because of the conflicting reports on the whereabouts of the innocent girls.
He restated that the PDP believed that the life, safety and wellbeing of all Nigerians remain of paramount importance to it and therefore insisted that all efforts must be exerted to find the pupils.
He called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to put machinery in motion for the safe return of the pupils.
Ologbondiyan said, “The PDP is monitoring the Nigeria Police investigation into the matter.
“We, however, charge the Inspector-General of Police with the task of putting machinery in place to unravel this disturbing situation and recover the missing children.
“We also urge the Federal Government to live up to its basic responsibility of protecting lives and property in our country.”