All hands, including those of the top officers at the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) as they have deployed more assets in a day and night search for the 110 schoolgirls abducted last week by suspected Boko Haram men.
The Federal Government said on Sunday that 110 pupils of the Government Girls’ Science Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi are unaccounted for.
Dapchi is the headquarters of Bursari Local Government Area of Yobe State. It is about 100 kilometres from Damaturu, the state capital.
The figure is higher than the 105 given by the parents of the pupils at the weekend.
The school was on February 19 attacked by suspected Boko Haram terrorists in military fatigues who took away the girls in 11 trucks.
Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation Lai Mohammed, gave the latest figure yesterday after a meeting of the Federal Government delegation with Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam and other stakeholders on the Dapchi attack in Damaturu, the state capital.
Minister of Interior Abdulrahman Dambazau and Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole Maj.-Gen. Roger Nicholas were in the team.
A statement by NAF Director of Public Relations and Information Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, urged Nigerians, including the rural dwellers who might have information that could lead to the location of the girls, to bring such information to the attention of the military authorities.
AVM Adesanya said : “The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has deployed additional air assets, including Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, to the Northeast in a renewed effort at locating the missing Dapchi girls.
“Before now, following confirmation of reports that some of the girls were yet to be accounted for, the NAF had deployed some ISR platforms and helicopters to search for and possibly locate the missing girls as well as the rogue Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs).
“Although these search operations were conducted in a covert manner, for obvious reasons, the efforts did not yield the desired results.
“Accordingly, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, directed the immediate deployment of additional air assets and NAF personnel to the Northeast with the sole mission of conducting day and night searches for the missing girls.
“It is noteworthy that the renewed efforts at locating the girls are being conducted in close liaison with other surface security forces. While the NAF will spare no efforts at possibly locating the girls via its air operations,
“It also seizes this opportunity to call on anyone, especially the locals, who might have any information that could lead to the location of the girls to bring such information forward to NAF authorities or other relevant security agencies.”
Mohammed said efforts were being made to get the girls back. He explained that a situation room to give succor to the traumatized parents and guardians would be created. The deployment of policemen and Civil Defence men in schools has been decided by the government.
“Far reaching decision were taken here today: one, is that henceforth, the police and the Civil Defence corps will ensure that their presence is strong in every school to serve as a deterrent to the insurgents. Secondly, the security agencies and outfits are working together and synergising to ensure that these girls are recovered as fast as possible.
“We are working on very important things that would not be very impudent to talk about but we want to assure Nigerians that no stone will be left unturned in our determination to rescue these girls,” he said.
On how the figure of the abducted pupils was arrived at, Mohammed said it was based on the briefings from the principal of the college, Hajia Adama Abdulkarim, and the Commissioner for Education, Hon. Mohammed Lamin, that 906 students – out of who 110 have not been accountedfor – were in the school on the day of the attack.
He said the security agencies were working on many leads regarding the whereabouts of the girls.
“This is the second time in four days that a Federal Government delegation would visit Yobe State since the unfortunate incident. This is a measure of the seriousness with which we are addressing the issue. The security forces are leaving no stone unturned in their search for the girls.
“We are back here in Yobe as part of efforts to provide some succor to the parents of the girls, to let them know that they are not alone and also to reassure them that we will not rest until we have found the girls. We will carry the parents along on the efforts we are making,’’ Mohammed said.
Mohammed explained that his statement in Dapchi last Thursday that “Boko Haram is looking for oxygen to breath” is at aimed at like trivialising the abduction but rather to underscore the major success the government has achieved against the insurgents in the last few years.
He said: “If you look at what this government has done in containing the Boko Haram insurgency, you will agree with me that this is actually looking for attention. It is actually more like oxygen. Just one life is very important. We are not making it look trivial, but we are just saying that we must remain focused. It is a very huge task and we want to assure Nigerians that the days of Boko Haram is almost at an end.”
Apart from the governor, members of the state Executive Council, the principal and vice principal of the school, representatives of the parents of the missing girls and security agencies attended the meeting.
Mohammed said “No stone will be left unturned in our determination to rescue these girls,” the minister said.
He said the federal and state governments as well as parents would collaborate with security agents to rescue the students.
The minister reiterated that the insurgents were being contained and now looking for soft targets.
“Government will remain focused and resolute in the fight against insurgency to rescue the students and every Nigerian in their custody.”
Dambazau said the delegation embarked on the trip to get the facts right ‘’so that the approach to the solution can be correct’’.
“We must get back the girls and also ensure that this does not happen again,’’ he said.