Locals in Dapchi, Nigeria, pelted Yobe state Governor Ibrahim Gaidam with rocks after the government admitted it had lied about rescuing dozens of schoolchildren abducted by Boko Haram this week.
After Boko Haram terrorists attacked the Government Girls Science Technical College in Dapchi on Monday, the government claimed that the terrorists only abducted three boys, and the girls unaccounted for at the school had merely run into local bushes or neighboring villages.
The girls who escaped the attack refuted the government’s claim that the terrorists had not taken away their classmates, telling local reporters that they saw men haul away many of the girls staying at the boarding school.
By midweek, government officials admitted that the terrorists had abducted some girls, only to claim authorities had rescued them.
On Thursday, Yobe state officials issued a press release apologizing for that report and confirming that an unknown number of girls remain missing, defying the federal government, which has insisted it is too soon to know the fate of the girls in question.
Parents told the Associated Press they have compiled a list of 101 names of girls whose parents say were never accounted for.
“The rescued girls are now in the custody of the Nigerian Army. We will provide more details about their number and condition in due course,” Nigeria’s federal government said in a statement Wednesday.
The Yobe state press release, titled “Apology and Clarification,” states that the information from the federal government on the alleged rescue of the girls is “unreliable.” The announcement of this rescue, the statement goes on to explain, was published “on the basis of information provided by one of the security agencies that is involved in the fight against Boko Haram, which we had no reason to doubt.”
“We have now established that the information we relied on to make the statement was not credible,” it continues.
“His Excellency Governor Gaidam has also directed education ministry officials and the school administration to work closely with the security agencies to establish the actual number of the girls that are still unaccounted for,” the statement concludes.
Gaidam visited Dapchi to meet with the affected families on Thursday, following the publication of the apology. Nigerian outlet The Cable cites locals who say the crowd was “calm” as the governor clarified the situation, but upon hearing that the government had lied about the safety of the girls, “blocked major roads, chanting anti-government songs and placing curses on Boko Haram.”
An eyewitness reportedly told the outlet:
When Gaidam began speaking, we were calm. We followed all that he said with assurances that the situation was under control. But we got suspicious when he began dribbling us. You know how these politicians are. He said we should cooperate with the government that they were doing their best. We asked him about the situation and he said none of the students had been rescued.
At that point, some parents broke down in tears, some even collapsed and before you knew it, the atmosphere was chaotic. The governor had to be ferried away by his security operatives but the mob went after the vehicles in his convoy. The peace that we have been enjoying in this community was disrupted.
Vanguard adds, posting photos initially published by The Cable, that the crowd “not only booed [Gaidam] but threw stones and dangerous objects at his convoy, resulting in the destruction of some vehicles.”
— KOKO TV Nigeria (@KOKOTV_NG) February 23, 2018
The outlet adds that soldiers fired into the angry crowd to disperse the protest. BBC reporter Stephanie Hegarty reported on Twitter that she had reason to believe the government was arresting the parents of the missing children who reacted aggressively to the news that the government had lied about their daughters.
A parent in Dapchi called me to say he's in hiding after an order has been issued for his arrest. One parent already arrested. For attacking convoy ostensibly, though they fear gov trying to prevent them from talking to the media. Police not answering calls. #Yobe
— Stephanie Hegarty (@stephhegarty) February 23, 2018
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has maintained an atrocious record with the treatment of Boko Haram victims and their relatives. Buhari himself declared he had “won the war” against Boko Haram in 2015, an assertion met with mockery today as Boko Haram expands out of its native Borno state east to Yobe. Buhari’s government, elected largely on a promise to destroy the Islamic State affiliate, has failed to rescue the remaining Chibok, Borno schoolgirls, taken hostage in 2014. While Abuja boasts of rescuing hundreds of other Boko Haram captives, their entry into government custody does not guarantee their safety, a point tragically punctuated by the Nigerian military conducting an airstrike on a Boko Haram refugee camp last year that killed over 100, many women and children.