The blame game has begun.
The army and the police yesterday disagreed over who should carry the can for the February 19 abduction of 110 Dapchi schoolgirls.
The Army said it “formally” handed over security in Dapchi to the police as its men moved to another operation, but the police said there was no such handover.
The army dismissed as “misleading”, alleged withdrawal of troops to aid the abduction of the Government Girls Science Technical College students in Dapchi, Yobe State.
Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyeama Nwachukwu, in a statement in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, said the allegation against the military “is not only unfortunate, but also very far from the truth”.
Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Geidam had reportedly alleged that the withdrawal of the troops from the area was responsible for the attack and abduction of female students of the college.
Col. Nwachukwu said Dapchi town was handed over to the police following the return of peace and civil authority in the area.
“Contrary to the comments credited to Governor Ibrahim Geidam, troops earlier deployed in Dapchi were redeployed to reinforce Kanama following attacks on troops’ location at the Nigerian – Nigerien border.
“This is on the premise that Dapchi has been relatively calm and peaceful, and the security of Dapchi was formally handed over to the Nigeria Police Division located in the town.
“Therefore, troops’ redeployment was done in tandem with the exigencies of operation as against the misconstrued notion.
“Several local councils and communities, hitherto, under siege by the insurgents were liberated by troops who continue to trail and decimate remnants of the insurgents in the hinterlands, the security of such liberated communities and towns fall in the hands of the sister security agencies”.
Col. Nwachukwu noted that the Theatre Command would not be joined in the blame game, but rather remained committed to ensuring successful implementation of the counter-insurgency operation in the North-East.
He explained that the recent dislodgement and further decimation of the insurgents from their enclaves in the Sambisa forest and the Lake Chad region was a clear testimony of the effective operations against the insurgents.
“Given all these efforts, it is very astonishing and shocking that such unfortunate comment and allegation is being touted against the loyal and dedicated troops of Operation Lafiya Dole”.
“We assure parents, government, the good people of Yobe and indeed, members of the public that we will not rest on our oars in the search and rescue of the abducted school girls and any other persons held captive by the terrorists,’’ he said.
But Police Commissioner in Yobe State, Sunmonu Abdumalik in a statement said: “The statement by the Military of formal handing over of Dapchi town to the Nigeria Police Division in Dapchi is not correct and untrue, as there was no time that the military informed the Police of their withdrawal, consult or handed over their locations in Dapchi town to the Police.
“The whole of Yobe State is still under Security Emergency which the Police, the Military and other security agencies are battling to ensure lasting peace.
“Members of the public in Yobe State are implored to disregard and discountenance this claim that the Military formally handed the security of Dapchi town to the Nigeria Police as untrue, unfounded and misleading.
“The Yobe State Police Command will continue to cooperate with other security agencies in ensuring safety and protection of lives and property of people of Yobe State.”
We’ll rescue girls, others, says Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday promised that his administration will do its all to rescue all Nigerians abducted by terrorists.
He gave the assurance while addressing the recently freed abductees taken by terrorists in Borno State, including 10 girls and three lecturers.
The President said: “While government was fully aware of the expectations of your families and the general public for your immediate freedom, the path to your freedom was painstaking and protracted. This was because the group responsible for your abduction were not only different but based in different locations that if not properly handled could result in dire consequences.
“I thank all the various security agencies for their professionalism throughout this process, as well as other agencies of government, sister nations in the Lake Chad region, the International Committee of the Red Cross who have contributed to this feat of bringing you all home safely.
“While thanking the security agencies and all those who facilitated this, let me clearly reiterate the resolve of this administration to ensure all persons abducted by the insurgents are rescued or released safely. This is especially against the backdrop of the recent incident where another group of girls were abducted on the 19th from Government Science and Technical Girls College, Dapchi, Yobe State.”
According to Buhari, he has already directed all security agencies to ensure the safety of schools and students and safe return of the abducted girls to their families.
He added: “Government remains unrelenting towards rescuing all those abducted. Government will also work closely with all stakeholders, especially the United Nations and other donor agencies, voluntary organisations towards rehabilitating and resettling all those displaced as a result of all these conflicts, to quicken resumption of meaningful social economic activities.
“I remain very mindful of the pains and injury collectively metted out by the insurgents and we will ensure that government does not leave any stone unturned to degrade and contain these insurgents and ensure that complete peace returns to our land.
“Once again, I’m pleased to see that all of you are now free and will soon join your loved ones as well as be fully integrated back into the society.
“Nigerians sympathise with you on your ordeal and wish you welcome back to your families and friends.
“And I suppose the NYSC should give a certificate of discharge to the person that spent the remaining of her service somewhere else (with abductors).”
The President went on: “This administration has been unrelenting in your rescue and freedom from your captors several months ago. I was terribly saddened by the incident of the abduction of June 20th, last year and the brutal killing of six others on the spot along Damboa Road while heading for the burial of a close one in Askira Uba Local Government of Borno State.
“The second was the July 26th, last year of the abduction of three university staff who were on official mission to explore the the possibility of the exploration of oil at the Lake Chad Basin.
“I can assure that apart from your family members, every peace-loving Nigerian prayed for your safety and wished for your early release from the hold of your abductors.
“Your rescue on the 10th of February this year was a very huge relief to me personally as well as to all Nigerians.
“Let me say that this government treasures all the human lives, particularly that of its citizens, and following your abductions, the security agencies were directed by me to do everything humanly possible to ensure the safe release of every one of you and other persons under hold of the insurgents.”
The Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, listed the names of the abductees, who were brought to the President on Monday, to include Jummai Ibrahim, who was serving her NYSC at the time of her abduction, Esther Wazari Kwasina and Amina Adams Gomdiya, Gloria Bulus, Paulina Amos, Tani Audu, and a final year student in the University of Maiduguri, Fustina.
He told the President that his organization chose the path of negotiation because it was considered as the safest.
“Because any forceful attempt to rescue the victims could endanger their lives. These negotiations took several months and the Department of State Services with support of the external elements of the group in diaspora and support from friendly countries and liaising with International Committee of the Red Cross made the rescue possible.”
Daura said that the process was slow due to the problem of dealing with two groups based in different locations at the same time.
According to him, the negotiations took place mostly outside the country, but they were finalised in the theater of operations.
He said: “The negotiations were mainly centered on an attempt at conflict mitigation which include the fate of arrested members of the insurgent groups, especially, accepting to free by government those found not to be culpable in any criminal action. Also, possible cessation of hostilities, especially the attacks with IEDs on innocent civilians, worship centers, schools and other public places in return for temporary stoppage of air strikes by helicopter gunships.
“Lastly, the negotiation was also centered on the possibility of granting amnesty to those willing to surrender and ready to lay down their arms by the federal government.” he said