Over a fortnight since their daughters were taken away from their school, parents of the missing schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State continue to suffer the agony of waking up every morning not knowing when or whether they will ever set eyes on their children again.
Between February 19 abduction of the 110 girls from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, by suspected Boko Haram militants and now, the parents had cautiously been waiting for news of eventual rescue of their daughters from their abductors.
Their hope was not without basis: President Muhammadu Buhari had few days after the adduction directed the military and the Police to deploy all the assets necessary to search for and rescue the girls.
In the same vein, Nigeria’s Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar had relocated from his base in Abuja to North East to help in search of the girls, with a promise that the Air Force will deploy all its assets to aid military efforts to find the girls.
But over two weeks after, and with no positive news from the government about ongoing efforts to free the girls from their abductors, the parents are becoming weary and frustrated. It is getting harder each day for parents of the missing children who now believe the government is being lackadaisical in efforts to free their daughters from Boko Haram.
The parents told SaharaReporters during a visit to Dapchi that the agony of not knowing what could be happening to their daughters is getting harder on them each day and the government has to do more to end their suffering.
“We are not satisfied with what government is doing about this issue,” Alhaji Bashir Manzo who is the chairman of Dapchi Abducted School Girls Parent Association formed to rally parents whose daughters were among the Boko Haram abductees told SaharaReporters.
“Seriously, we the parents of the children are not happy with how the government is handling this issue. Government is behaving like it is not serious about this matter,” the chairman of Dapchi Abducted School Girls Forum said.
Alhaji Manzo noted that while there has been so much talk by the government on the ongoing efforts to rescue the girls, there are vital clues which can lead to where their daughters were taken which were being neglected in the efforts to free them.
“They are supposed to bring many soldiers in Dapchi and trace the road through which the abductors passed, following the road till they get to where the girls were taken to. But we did not see that happen. One team came and went to Gumsa to confirm, after which they went back to Damaturu.”
He added that since the girls were heard shouting while their abductors were taking them away through the same route they had used to come to the town, troops should have been deployed along the same route to track the Boko Haram invaders.
“They (Boko Haram fighters) put the girls who kept shouting in their trucks and drove away. People heard the cries of the girls in all the villages they passed through. They went back through the same road they took to Dapchi when they were going with the girls. My daughter Fatima Bashir, is among the abducted girls, and till now, nothing is heard about them,” he said.
Speaking on the claims of deployment of more aircraft by the Airforce to search for the girls, Alhaji Manzo said the parents have not seen any aircraft other than the ones that came to the town immediately after the incident.
“Though we are hearing that they sent some aircraft, but we have not seen any,” he said. “Since after the one that came the day it happened and the day the governor came, and the days the minister came and went back, that is, Friday evening, we have not seen any aircraft.”
Alhaji Manzo also briefly narrated how the girls were abducted: “We got the information that Boko Haram came into town on that Monday evening. At that time, some of us were in the mosque, while others were yet to go to the mosque. And they started shooting in the town. Many fled, but some people stayed around. They (Boko Haram members) came looking for the school. While searching for the school, they went to the primary school, and they said ‘this is not the school they were looking for’. Some of them eventually located the girls’ school (GGSTC Dapchi), and they went there and abducted our children and went with them.”
The chairman called on the government at state and federal level to step up efforts to rescue the girls.
He vowed that the parents will keep up pressure on government until the girls are rescued.
“We are hereby begging the federal government under Buhari’s leadership, and the state government under Ibrahim Gaidam’s leadership, to be more serious in getting back our children from these people.
“And now, some parents, especially the mothers, have been rendered useless with anxiety, having sleepless nights and some are hospitalized as they keep wondering what could be happening to their children. Even, we, the men who are a bit stronger, we are not really doing well emotionally. We can only be fine when we see our children. That is all I can say.”
One of the parents of the abducted girls, Hauwa Abubakar, also called on the government to step up the search for the students now.
Hauwa, a single mother, said her daughter, Zara Brema Dabo, a 15- year- old SS1 student, was just three weeks old in the school before the incidence occurred.
In her words: “Ever since their father died nine years ago, I am the one taking care of them (the abducted girl and her other children.) Now my daughter is 15. I trained her myself to this time; I don’t have any problem until when I took her to a boarding school. She is three weeks old in the boarding school before this incident occurred. That is why I’m begging the government to do more to rescue the girls.”
However, Hauwa said the abduction was ‘an act of God, and a test of faith,’ even as she prayed that God gives the parents the strength to pass the test.
“Government should please help these female students because they are little children who are not yet matured. Please, in whoever hand they may be, help us rescue our children. We don’t have anything else to say, but to beg for their freedom. This is an act of God on us and our children, and we cannot crossover God’s will. And I know this is a test from God. May God give us the strength to pass the test,” she said.
Also, a mother, Aisha A. Danjuma, whose daughter was also abducted lamented government’s inability to rescue the girls up till now. She said many of the parents of the abducted girls are finding it difficult to sleep.
“My daughter’s name is Aisha A. Danjuma. I am not happy now at all. If I go inside to lay down to sleep, I only enter for the sake of the children, so that they can sleep. But I am not able to sleep myself. The way I entered (the bedroom), that is the same way I will come out.
“My mind is bitter now, I can’t sleep. If we were staying with our children peacefully at home, they will say we refused to take the children to school. We take them to school, and this is what happened to them. How can I sleep? Our prayer is that God should bring them back safe. And may ours be among the lucky ones,” she added.
Yahaya Yusuf Tela, another parent who spoke to our journalist and whose two daughters, Hajara and Rabi, were among the students abducted called on the global community to help in the rescue mission, saying it is now beyond a Nigerian issue.
Tela said neighboring countries like Cameroon and Chad need to join the search too as similar abduction can also happen in their countries.
“I am calling on the global community, as this is not just a Nigerian issue, to step into this case and help to rescue these girls,” he said. “They should also mount pressure on security agencies in other neighboring countries sharing borders with Nigeria such as Chad and Cameroon, to help in the search for these girls, since we all are affected by this. I’m calling on the support of Chad and Cameroon as well as the global community to join in this fight.”
“I’m calling on Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria to help us get our children back because a child does not belong to just one person. The children are ours, but the pain is being felt by so many Nigerians,” he added.
But Tela said the solution to the abduction is not to close down the school in Dapchi. According to him, the ultimate solution is for the government to look for ways of ending Boko Haram militancy.
He warned that failure of the government to end Boko Haram militancy in the north can lead to the collapse of Nigeria as a country.
He said, “if nothing is done to stop these militants called Boko Haram, their activities can consume the whole of this country. They (Boko Haram) are succeeding here today, tomorrow they go there, and next tomorrow go to another place. That is why we want the government to check Boko Haram and provide our security agencies with more equipment which they can use to track where these children are. The government can do this.”
“We want the government to act fast, the problem of insecurity is causing a lot of havoc to northerners. We need help from Nigerians and even outside Nigeria, they should help us with all they can. We need help to find the missing children so the parents of the missing children can have peace of mind and have time to rest and eat and do their daily businesses. For now, I don’t even go to work because of the tension of not seeing my children. I don’t even eat,” he said.
Another parent, Alhaji Adamu Mohammed, whose daughter Maryam was also abducted, commended government over the prompt set up of the search and rescue mission.
“Evidently, we see that this government has stood up to ensure that it rescues these children,” he said.
“And we are really happy with the reports we are getting that government and other parties are working on bringing back the children. We received reports that the President has asked Airforce commanding officers to relocate to Maiduguri, together with their equipment to ensure that they find these children. We are grateful to both the federal and state governments for their efforts.”
“I am calling on the federal government to save our children by any means possible. This issue is really troubling us, and not just us, but the entire society.
“Those children were abducted from a government’s school. No responsible government will keep quiet and watch while this kind of thing happens. Any reasonable government must stand up and tackle this kind of problem when they occur,” he said.
Fatima Garba who escaped the abduction by Boko Haram narrated how the incident happened:
“Firstly, they entered the school on Monday, at about 7 p.m. Many of us fasted that day in the school. We had never fasted like that in the school before. It was at about 7 p.m., some students were in the Mosque, some had just broken their fast while others were yet to. Then we heard a gunshot. We all went silent. We then heard another gunshot.
“Then the students came out, understanding that these gunshots were evidently not of soldiers, it could be that of Boko Haram. The whole school then went out to the gate, which is the exit gate. Already, they (Boko Haram invaders) were in two groups. Some of them were at the staff gate, and the others were at the students' gate. They were all wearing military uniforms, and their faces were all masked, we could only see the eyes.
“Children began to scale the fence. Then the men began to call on the students saying: ‘Come and enter, we are here to save you. Come and enter, (their trucks) let’s save you, Boko Haram have come to attack, come and enter’.
“Meanwhile, I did not go out, I was still standing. This was because I couldn’t find my sister. I looked for her, kept calling her name, but I was still inside the school, I didn’t go outside the gate. But the children kept entering (Boko Haram trucks) like that. Later when their vehicles got filled, they now fired a gunshot, which scattered all of us that were by the gate. Some were running from this side to that side, while we ran to staff quarters.
“Some scaled the fence and ran into the bush, while we ran to the staff quarters and met the teachers hiding in the quarters. We joined the teachers, and that was where we spent the night. We, the students, together with the Principal and many teachers, all spent the night there. Some others who ran to the bush, go to some nearby villages and spent the night there.
“The morning, the next day, we returned back to the school and soldiers were manning the school.”