Dapchi kidnap: Government ‘will not abandon’ lone hostage

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One of the released Dapchi school girls is carried as military and government officials supervise the airlift of the rescued girls at Maiduguri Airport, NigeriaImage copyright EPA
Image caption Military and government officials supervised the airlift of the rescued girls to Abuja

The Nigerian government says it “will not relent” in its efforts to free the last remaining schoolgirl being held by Boko Haram after a kidnapping in the town of Dapchi last month.

The girl was among 110 girls taken from their school when militants stormed the town on 19 February.

Most were released on Wednesday but one girl, a Christian who refused to convert to Islam, is still being held.

The president said the girl will not be abandoned.

“President Muhammadu Buhari is… committed to the freedom of the only Dapchi schoolgirl still in captivity,” a statement said.

“The Buhari administration will not relent in efforts to bring [her] safely back home to her parents. The lone Dapchi girl will not be abandoned.”

Of those seized, 104 girls were released on Wednesday and five reportedly died during their captivity.

Two other people – a boy and another girl from Dapchi – were freed at the same time, the government says.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The girls were taken from a boarding school in Dapchi, Yobe state, in February

The government denies claims that Boko Haram was paid a ransom for the girls’ freedom, or that there was a prisoner swap.

Information Minister Lai Mohammad told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that the girls’ return was part of ongoing talks about an amnesty in return for a ceasefire.

“We did not pay any ransom for the girls. We discussed with them the cessation of hostilities in return for possible amnesty,” he said.

“If they [Boko Haram] returned and lay down their arms and renounce their membership of the insurgency, then we will give them free passage and they can return to society,” Mr Mohammad said.

He added that the government was “taken aback” by the abduction because it was a breach of the talks.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The girls were flown to Abuja on a military plane

Meanwhile, the father of one of the kidnapped girls has described the pain of losing his daughter again after she was flown to meet the president shortly after her release.

He told the BBC he had only been able to see his daughter at hospital for a few minutes.

“Even though I assured her I wouldn’t leave her there, we were all asked to leave and they took them away,” he said.

The freed girls are expected to undergo some medical screening and debriefing before meeting President Buhari, possibly on Friday.

His administration has been under pressure to resolve the abduction, which revived painful memories of the 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from the town of Chibok.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was criticised for his handling of the abductions in Chibok, some 275km (170 miles) south-east of Dapchi.

The freed Chibok girls were also immediately taken to meet then-President Jonathan after their release. However, more than 100 girls from Chibok remain missing.

Amnesty International criticised the Nigerian military’s handling of the Dapchi kidnapping, saying it had ignored repeated warnings about the movement of Boko Haram fighters prior to the abduction.

Amnesty’s Nigeria director Osai Ojigho called the kidnapping a “catalyst for the government to ensure adequate protection of all schools in the north-east so that this can never happen again”.

The military said Amnesty’s allegation was an “outright falsehood,” AFP reports.

Timeline: How Dapchi abductions unfolded (Mobile users click image)

  • 19 February

    Suspected Boko Haram militants attack a public secondary school for girls in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Dapchi in Yobe state.

  • 20 February

    Nigerian government confirms 110 girls missing.

  • 21 February

    Yobe state government announces rescue of some of the girls from “terrorists who abducted them” and says they are with the army.

    Read more here

  • 22 February

    The Yobe state government retracts the statement and apologises for misleading the public, saying: “No girl was rescued”.

    Read more here

  • 23 February

    President Muhammadu Buhari calls the abduction of the schoolgirls in Dapchi as a “national disaster”.

    Read more here

  • 25 February

    Nigerian Air Force announces deployment of military aircraft and additional personnel for search and rescue mission.

  • 26 February

    Nigerian army denies claims by Yobe State Governor that soldiers were removed from Dapchi before the girls’ abduction. The army then admits it redeployed soldiers away from the town, saying the area was “relatively secure”.

    Read more here

  • 27 February

    Federal government launches investigation into the circumstances leading to abduction and releases full details of the 110 missing schoolgirls.

    Read more here

  • 28 February

    UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says he “strongly condemns the abduction and attack”.

  • Local human rights activist Aisha Wakil, known as “Mama Boko Haram” because she has known some of the militants since they were children, is quoted in reports saying that the Barnawi faction of Boko Haram confirmed to her that it was holding the girls.

  • Women hold a protest in the capital Abuja, three weeks after the girls’ abduction.

  • President Muhammadu Buhari announces plan to negotiate the girls’ release, rather than use military force.

  • President Buhari makes his first visit to Dapchi, assuring parents of the missing schoolgirls that the government will secure the girls’ rescue.

  • Amnesty International claims Nigerian army ignored repeated warnings of an attack on Dapchi town, hours before militants abducted the girls.

    Read more here

  • Nigerian government announces that 101 of the 110 abducted schoolgirls have been freed.

    Read more here


Credits

Development by Olawale Malomo. Design by Olaniyi Adebimpe. Research by Nkechi Ogbonna, Princess Abumere and Emmanuelle Lhoni

Photo Credits

Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Isaac Linus Abrak, Presidency Nigeria, Pulse Nigeria

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