Presidency, Borno Govt In Cold War Over Abducted Girls
A cold war is brewing between the Presidency and the Borno State Government as a fallout of the April 15 invasion of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok by Boko Haram insurgents who abducted 276 students of the school in the process.
The ‘war’ stems from misgivings by the Presidency about what it sees as the mishandling of the matter by the state government.
It believes that the state authorities are playing politics with the girls’ abduction, a situation that prompted President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday to set up a 26-man ‘fact-finding’ panel on the raid.
A few hours after the constitution of the panel, the First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan met with some women in Abuja and gave the state government a three-day ultimatum to find the girls.
She threatened to lead protests in Maiduguri and Abuja if the students are not found by today.
The State Government yesterday denied the insinuation that it is playing politics with the fate of the girls.
It accused Mrs. Jonathan of instigating people against it with her planned protests.
It was gathered that several allegations were levelled at the state government at Friday’s security meeting with some military chiefs faulting the handling of the situation by the Maiduguri government.
Some of the allegations are: reeling out conflicting figures on the abducted girls; suspected inflation of the figures of the missing girls; refusal to publish the names and photographs of the girls; hiding information from the public that the school is the mixed type at the time of the abduction; operating school when others were closed in the state; complicity in the abduction of the girls; sponsoring stories that the girls have been married off to terrorists at N2,000 each; and playing politics with the abduction to avoid a declaration of total emergency in the state by President Goodluck Jonathan.
A highly-placed source said: “The Presidency believes that the Borno State Government has been feeding the public with half-truths since the abduction thing started. You can see how the figures have been changing.
“For instance, security agencies discovered that the Principal was in Maiduguri on the night of the abduction contrary to her narration of what happened on April 14.
“Nigerians should ask why the state did not tell us that the school was a mixed type when the insurgents invaded it.
“The Presidency is worried that up till now, none of the 53 girls who either escaped or not abducted, has been presented to the public by the state government for Nigerians to hear their side or experience.
“We are also concerned that they have not released the names and photographs of the missing girls.”
The source said the state government has also been denigrating the military.
However, a Borno State Government official, who spoke in confidence, said the Federal Government is under immense pressure over the girls and it is looking for a scapegoat.
The official said the Federal Government is bringing unnecessary politics into the abduction saga in order to heap the blame on Borno State.
He said the state would be vindicated when the Presidential fact finding committee completes its work.
The official gave a synopsis of all issues raised by the Presidency on the abduction of the girls.
He said: “The school is established and known to be Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok as a mainly girls school but sometime last year, stakeholders of Chibok made a pressing request that a make shift arrangement be made to accommodate their male children since the school was big enough to accommodate more students.
“The stakeholders request was because their sons, who were schooling in other parts of the state that turned out to be unsafe, were idle at home .
“And because Chibok was very safe, the parents demanded that rather than sitting at home, their sons be allowed to also be in that school. The Governor reluctantly accepted that a temporary structure be put in place while he preferred that where necessary a new school be built for the boys while the girls be allowed in their school given the fact that the school was established mainly as a female school with all its policies and programs designed as such.”
The source said that the state’s Ministry of education identified schools that were considered safe and students from other schools were secretly collapsed so they could take their exams.
Government felt that if the students did not sit for the exam, they would end up losing one year.
The decision was thus taken but without the public knowing so that terrorists might not go after them.
Continuing, the source said:”The GGSS Chibok was considered one of the safest schools; it was opened like some others in Uba, Askira, Maiduguri, Biu, Gwoza and some others. In that school, attacked in Chibok, students from schools in Izge, Warabe, Lassa and Ashiga-Shiya were all collapsed in one place and they were quietly writing their exams until that unfortunate attack of Tuesday, 14th of April, 2014.
“One other thing that should be said is that, initially, the Governor had insisted that all the final year students be moved to schools in Maiduguri and Biu but stakeholders from some of the areas, particularly in Chibok and Uba protested.
“The Governor had several meetings with the community members of Chibok including traditional rulers, parents, the chairman of the council, the member of the state assembly representing Chibok and opinion leaders, they insisted that their children be allowed to remain in Chibok was actually safe.
“At a point they asked the Governor what would happen if their children were attacked in Maiduguri or Biu, it was at that point he acceded to their request. The truth is that the collapse of students from other schools in Chibok as was done in other parts of the State was a major reason there is a mix up in the number of missing girls.
“The Government found itself at a difficult situation. This is probably why the Governor was not saying much about the school. One interesting thing is that the Boko Haram only targeted the girls’ hostel which was a permanent structure there and that is why only girls were abducted. The boys stay in a make shift hostel because the Government plans to relocate them, even on the school sign post, what is written there is Government Girls Secondary School.”
The source added that after that attack, students of the school in Chibok were collapsed in another school in Uba which already had other students from Askira.
“Then on the issue of WAEC telling the First Lady that 530 persons registered for the exam, amongst them 180 males and 189 now at Uba . First, there was never a time the Borno State Government announced that 234 girls were abducted.
“The Governor personally announced 129 and all the media reported it, it was after he visited the school that it was discovered that parents registered over 200 missing.”
The official faulted the argument that the Borno Government could have staged the abduction to show that the emergency has failed with a view to making a case for ending the state of emergency.
“The Borno State Government shoulders 90 percent of funding the military activities including paying rewards for intelligence which the military collects.
“There is simply no way the Federal Government will succeed in shifting blame to the State Government which seems to be the plan here. The FG is under immense pressure and they are looking for a scapegoat.
“The Police Commissioner and the State Director of SS in Borno State did a joint press conference after their investigation and they pointed to the fact as was reported on Friday that students were collapsed in some schools for the purpose of exams. They even said over 276 students were actually missing based on their own investigation.
“We heard that the First Lady is trying to incite people to protest against the State Government and that is rather too childish and unnecessary since a fact finding committee has been set up unless if she is saying that the committee’s report is ready before the committee’s inauguration on Tuesday.”
On the issue of the State Government ýrefusal to publish names and photos of the schoolgirls, the official said “The government has no lawful mandate of making such publication to declare anyone missing; only the police have that lawful mandate, perhaps the military also since we are still under a state of emergency.”
“Also, there are elements of religion and family background in a data that when you expose you complicate things for the girls. We just didn’t want to act stupidly and illegally otherwise we have the names and pictures. But as I speak with you, the Police and the SSS have the data of the missing girls, they are professionals, they can decide what to do.”
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