SINCE February 19 when 110 students of Government Girls Technical School, Dapchi, Yobe State, were abducted by members of the terror outfit, Boko Haram, the country has been treated to a continuous salad of absurdities. From the quite revealing statement credited to, but since denied by, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, namely that the girls would be released in two weeks’ time, to the statement by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that no ransom was paid to secure the girls’ release, and the statement by President Muhammadu Buhari that his administration had been more responsible than the immediate past government, among others, Nigerians have been treated to what amounts to a complete travesty by the Federal Government.
While we welcome the release of 104 Dapchi girls and a boy and rejoice with their parents, we cannot but ask questions regarding the entire Dapchi episode. What was the role of the security agencies in the whole abduction and return saga? Why did the military vacate the area shortly before the abduction? Is there any truth to the claim by Amnesty International that the army and police were warned that Boko Haram would abduct the girls but made no attempt to stop them? If, as is common knowledge, there is only one road linking Damaturu to Gaidam through Dapchi, which route did the abductors take? How long would it take the military to counter the abduction since its barracks in Gaidam is only a few kilometres away from the school? The government insists that Boko Haram does not control any territory within Nigeria, but how was it possible for the same group to keep more than 100 girls under its watch, without their consent and for almost one month, without the Nigerian security agencies having a whiff of where they were kept? And if the security agencies did not know where the girls were kept, how were the negotiations for their return carried out? Where did the girls emerge from on the day they were returned?
If Boko Haram had to transport the girls on the day of the abduction and also on the day they were returned in a convoy of vehicles, why was it impossible or difficult for the Nigerian security forces to trace such convoys? And after the return of the girls, where did the Boko Haram contingent disappear into? How easy would it be for any terrorist group to operate freely within the territory of security forces ostensibly still fighting it and abduct more than 100 girls without any response from the so-called security forces? Which security forces would allow themselves to be treated the way Boko Haram treated the nation’s security outfits in this abduction saga?
Again, which population would henceforth trust the security agencies with their protection after this saga? What is the overall implication of the current saga for the role and responsibility of the Nigerian government in the protection and security of its citizens? What does this saga say or tell the nation about the gain and attraction to further kidnapping and abduction by Boko Haram group given the obvious benefits derived from the Dapchi abduction, if only in terms of publicity? Although the government maintains that it did not pay ransom for the return of the girls, could Boko Haram have returned the girls after its investment in their abduction without getting anything concrete in return? If, as indicated by the government, the same group of persons that negotiated the release of some Chibok girls negotiated the release of 104 Dapchi girls, why are the rest of the Chibok girls not back yet? Why was it relatively easy to rescue the Dapchi girls but up till now, the majority of the Chibok girls kidnapped in 2014 are yet to be found? While the parents have said that their daughters would not return to the GGSTC, Dapchi, the government has said that they would resume normal academic activities in the school this week. But where is the guarantee that they would never experience horror again? Indeed, what assurance do the parents have that the military or police would still not withdraw from the area someday, leaving the students defenceless? When will Leah Sharibu, the only Christian among the girls, and whom the abductors were said to have held on to because of her refusal to renounce her faith, be released?
One of the girls told The Guardian UK, “It took us three days to get back to Dapchi. We were divided into three groups and flown in planes, and taken over rivers in boats.” If so, where did Boko Haram get those planes and boats? Where did the planes take off and where did they land? Why were the girls’ parents not allowed to see them before they were driven to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to meet with President Buhari? Nigerians need valid answers to these questions.