The governor of Yobe state, Nigeria, accused the federal government on Monday of withdrawing troops from a key at-risk region two weeks ago, shortly before the terrorist group Boko Haram attacked a school complex and abducted over one hundred girls.
The Nigerian government only just confirmed the mass abduction on Monday, a week after parents and classmates of the victims began insisting that their loved ones were missing. The government initially denied that anyone had been kidnapped other than three boys who were not students at the Government Girls Technical School in Dapchi.
“I blame the whole attack on Dapchi on the military and the defence headquarters which withdrew troops from Dapchi,” Governor Ibrahim Gaidam told reporters during a joint press conference with Borno state governor Kashim Shettima on Monday. Shettima is still awaiting the rescue of dozens of girls abducted by the Islamic State affiliate from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno, in 2014, and visited bordering Yobe state in solidarity. Boko Haram is based in Borno, which borders Yobe to the east.
“The attack occurred barely a week after the military withdrew the soldiers from there,” Gaidam said. “Before then, Dapchi has been peaceful, there was never such incident. But just a week after they withdrew the troops, Boko Haram came to attack the town.”
Gaidam went on to note that a similar incident occurred in 2013, when the military withdrew from Buni-Yadi in his state. “Let me be quoted anywhere, the military must take blame for the attack on Dapchi,” he insisted. “The same thing happened in 2013 when the military suddenly removed troops guarding the town and a week later Boko Haram went there to attack the town and the secondary school there killing 29 students.”
Gaidam received support from the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) group, which also condemned the Nigerian military for neglecting soft targets for Boko Haram. “There is ample evidence to prove that the insurgents spy on Nigerian troops and launch attacks during periods of complacency. We should have known that it is not over until it is over,” MURIC director Isha Akintola told Nigeria’s Daily Post.
“Both attacks [Chibok and Dapchi] occurred a week after troops were withdrawn from the towns. Even the 2013 massacre of 29 students in a secondary school in Buni Yadi by Boko Haram a week after the withdrawal of troops arouses our curiosity,” he added. “We call for an urgent investigation into the withdrawal of troops from Dapchi barely a week before the attack.”
Shettima, meanwhile, complemented an improved attitude on the part of the government between the Dapchi and Chibok attacks. “I think the difference between the Chibok incident and this one, is that the Federal Government didn’t react in denial, doubt or formed a conspiracy theory,” he told reporters. “The Federal Government assumed responsibility, which we hope will lead to rescue of the schoolgirls. Those who admitted there was abduction came up with a conspiracy theory that the APC [All Progressives’ Congress] leaders perpetuated it in order to win the 2015 elections. Now, this abduction took place in an APC-controlled State under an APC-led Federal Government.”
Shettima is a member of the APC party, while Gaidam is a member of the minority All Nigeria Peoples Party.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari finally issued a statement on the Dapchi attack on Monday via Twitter, calling it a “national disaster.”
“I want the families of the girls yet unaccounted for at the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi to know that no effort will be spared to ensure that all of them are returned safely, and the attackers arrested and made to face justice,” he said via Twitter. “The entire country stands as one with the families, and with the government and people of Yobe State. This is a national disaster. We are sorry that it happened; we share your pain.”
Buhari declared that Nigeria “won the war” against Boko Haram in 2015. Buhari’s special adviser Femi Adesina appeared to dig in on those claims in his own statement on the Dapchi attack Monday.
“Compare how Boko Haram was in 2015 when this administration came, they were virtually running riot everywhere. How many times was Kano bombed, how many times was Abuja bombed, how many times was Kogi bombed; Boko Haram was everywhere,” he argued.
Boko Haram conducted 135 suicide bombings using children in 2017.
The Nigerian Air Force—which killed 100 Boko Haram victims last year with an airstrike on a displaced persons’ camp—announced it would deploy “additional air assets, including Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, to the Northeast in a renewed effort at locating the missing Dapchi girls.” The air force also requested that locals keep authorities informed if they have any tips on the whereabouts of the girls.
A week ago, Boko Haram terrorists attacked the Dapchi school. Parents immediately took a head count following the attack and found that 94 girls were missing. Girls who escaped the clutches of the terrorist group told reporters that they watched their classmates being pulled away from them, likely taken to be sex slaves and suicide bombers. The government claimed these reports were untrue, and the girls missing had merely ran into nearby bushes or towards neighboring villages.
Federal government officials admitted some of the girls had been taken on Wednesday, but claimed they had all been rescued: “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.”
Parents expecting to be reunited with their children found instead that government officials had lied to them, and they had no information regarding where they daughters had gone.
By Friday, villagers in Dapchi were stoning Governor Gaidam’s official vehicle and threatening to attack government agents.
The Government Girls Science and Technology College remains closed despite another 800 students still requiring scholarly attention. Yobe officials insist they will not reopen the school until the federal government can assure the girls studying there will be safe from a similar attack, and until the survivors of the attack have survived their trauma. Many students insist they will not return, preferring not to receive an education than to risk abduction by Boko Haram.