An apparently embarrassed Nigerian military on Thursday backtracked on its claim that it freed majority of the 129 female students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, abducted on Monday night by suspected Boko Haram members.
The spokesperson of the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, Chris Olukolade, had said 107 of the girls were freed in addiction to the 14 that escaped from their abductors.
Mr. Olukolade claimed that following the rescue, only eight of the girls were still held captive by the insurgents.
But shortly after Mr. Olukolade’s statement was published, the principal of the affected school, Asabe Kwambura, as well as officials of the Borno state government, said the claims were untrue and that majority of the girls were still missing.
“There is nothing in the military statement that is true about our abducted girls,” Mrs. Kwambura had said. “Up till now we are still waiting and praying for the safe return of the students; all I know is that we have only 14 of them, and the security people especially the Vigilante and the well meaning volunteers of Gwoza are still out searching for them.”
Mrs. Kwambura’s claim portrayed the military in bad light and angered several Nigerians, with some accusing the military and the Nigerian government of playing politics with the lives of the abducted girls.
Apparently terribly rattled by the denial of its claim, the military on Thursday night issued a statement, saying it was deferring to the principal of the school and the Borno government on the correct number of girls that have so far been freed.
“In the light of the denial by the principal of the school, the Defence Headquarters wishes to defer to the school principal and Governor’s statement on the number of students still missing and retract that aspect of earlier statement while the search continues,” Mr. Olukolade said in a statement.
The defence spokesperson denied the military was playing politics with the rescue operation.