Dapchi: A kidnap too cheap


News that terrorist group, Boko Haram stormed into a girls’ school in Dapchi, Yobe State, north eastern Nigeria this week, and kidnapped over 100 girls, is numbing to say the least. Sad that the country is experiencing a notorious mass abduction like one that drew worldwide condemnation almost four years ago.
Reports claim that Boko Haram, the extremist group behind the earlier kidnappings, raced into the village of Dapchi last week in machine-gun mounted trucks and opened fire, witnesses said. As they headed for the Government Girls Science and Technical School, students and teachers fled, some climbing fences to escape.
To worsen matters, like it happened in 2014 with the Chibok girls, claims and counter claims as to numbers of abducted or released caused more scandal than the actual kidnap thereby showing that there is little or no change in the way we do things in the country. While early reports claim 50 students were still missing, according to state government officials; Yobe Police Command gave conflicting information to reporters, saying about 100 girls were gone. By mid-week, media reports claimed that the girls had been rescued, but this too was to be debunked by the state government.
During the attack, groups of students ran into the bush and other villages and some headed for their homes on farms far from Dapchi. A few students and residents told reporters that some girls were spotted being taken away by the militants. Mohammed Bilal, an Islamic studies teacher at the school, said the militants arrived about 5:30 p.m. in the village, which until then had escaped the fighting in Northern Nigeria. “The girls were in their rooms and I was in my dorm when we heard gunshots and screaming,” he said. “I didn’t see where they were coming from.”
Mr. Bilal said he had counted nine vehicles — two were land cruisers with machine guns on top — filled with fighters in military uniforms. He ran away with several students and colleagues, he said, but 30 minutes later returned to gather other students to help them flee.
President Muhammadu Buhari released a statement, saying on Twitter that he had directed the military and the police to mobilise to find the missing girls. He said the defense minister would also lead a delegation to Yobe State on Thursday.
Adding to the confusion was the difficulty reaching some families to confirm that their daughters had turned up at home; some live in areas with poor phone networks. The school has closed for the week to assess the situation.
The long silence stoked fears, largely because it echoed a similar lack of communication in the days following what turned out to be the abduction of nearly 300 girls from a secondary school in the village of Chibok, in a nearby state, in April 2014.
That kidnapping spurred a global social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls. About 100 of those students are still being held hostage. Dozens of schoolboys have been kidnapped or burned alive.
Oby Ezekwesili, a former education minister and founder of the Bring Back Our Girls organisation, which has been fighting for the release of the Chibok students, criticised the government on Twitter, saying that officials had been “ominously mum” about the Dapchi school attack. It took the government two days to release an official statement.
Although it took longer number of days after the students in Chibok were taken to mount any concerted effort to find them, this kidnap must not mimic the Chibok painful experience. That cold response from the government at the time allowed militants to escape with many young girls. Nearly four years a lot of those girls are yet to be found.
Last year, government officials negotiated for the release of about half of the missing students from the Chibok kidnapping. Several others escaped. And this month, officials secured the release of a group of police officers and university professors who were kidnapped by Boko Haram last year.
This latest occurrence is a serious setback on the fight against terrorism. We are shocked that Boko Haram still has the capacity to carry out this magnitude of mischief. We recommend that it is about time most of the service chiefs are changed. They have done their bit, it is time they are retired. The fight against terrorism requires fresh vigour.

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