Controversy shrouds missing Nigerian schoolgirls

By Rafiu Ajakaye, Monday, April 21, 2014

Parents says 234 girls are still missing, while local government insists only 77 are unaccounted for

Parents says 234 girls are still missing, while local government insists only 77 are unaccounted for

LAGOS – A week later, controversy still surrounds the exact number of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants in the northern restive state of Borno.

"The number known to me is 129 which was the figure I transmitted to the governor," Asabe Kwambura, the principal of Government Girls' Secondary School in Chibok, told Anadolu Agency on Monday during a visit by Borno Governor Kashim Shettima to the town.

Ms Kwambura appeared confused and under intense stress and at some point broke into tears.

She watched helplessly - and appeared dumbfounded - as some parents told Governor Shettima that 234 schoolchildren were abducted last Monday.

A representative of the parents, Shettima Haruna, told the governor that they "are yet to see 234 girls now. We have found out from all our people, they are still missing."

"We have received only 39 for now. These are those who escaped from the bush," Haruna said. "We beg government to help us."

On April 14, militants stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, located on the fringes of Sambisa Forest – a known Boko Haram hideout.

They loaded scores of schoolgirls onto their trucks and drove away unhindered.

Borno education commissioner Musa Kubo, who had previously said only 129 children were abducted, did not comment when the parents talked about the new figure.

He did not reply to a text message sent to him by AA on Monday night.

He had initially answered his phone before he hang up when asked to explain the disparity between the official 129 and the 234 figure used by the parents.

The local government announced earlier today that seven more schoolgirls have returned.

He said they had fled the abductors' camp when they were asked to prepare food.

That, according to the government's figures, left only 77 of the kidnapped students still unaccounted for.

Four of the abducted schoolchildren had managed to escape while being moved by the militants on the same day of abduction.

Ten escaped later while cooking for their kidnappers.

On Friday, the government announced that 14 more had also escaped.

A total of 17 students earlier thought to have been kidnapped have since been returned to the school by their parents. It turned out they had fled the school at the time of the raid.

Inasmuch as official figures have come under doubts, claim by parents that 234 were missing is also being questioned by analysts who wondered whose responsibility it is - between individual parents and education authorities - to ascertain the figure of the affected students.

The military has stayed out of the new controversy after triggering a storm last week by claiming that all but eight schoolgirls had been freed.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency