•As Buhari directs military to take charge of situation in Dapchi
•48 missing girls have returned, says Yobe govt; closes school for one week
•We’re working with Army, others to ensure return of girls — Gov Geidam
•Recover all missing students — PDP tasks IGP

ABUJA—NO less than 111 schoolgirls of the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State cannot be accounted for in the aftermath of an invasion by Boko Haram insurgents Tuesday night, according to the state Police Commissioner, Abdulmaliki Sunmonu. This is as President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed the military and other security agencies to take charge and control of Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.

Girls'[ students
Girls’ students
Already, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, will be leading a delegation to Yobe today to get first hand information on what happened and the present situation of things.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this to State House Correspondents, yesterday, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, did not give details of the situation.

Mohammed said:  “Mr. President has directed military and other security agencies to take immediate charge and control of Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, and informed him of developments.

“He has released a delegation, led by the Minister of defence to Dapchi, to get first hand information as to what is happening.  Others in the delegation are Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Information.”

Yobe State Governor, Gaidam
Yobe State Governor, Gaidam

On what could be additional information as regards the missing girls, aside the 48 that have reportedly returned, he said:  “That is precisely why Mr. President is in direct contact with the military and police and as soon as we get any information, we will let you know.”

The Police Commissioner in Yobe State, Abdulmaliki Sunmonu, confirmed yesterday that 111 girls were still unaccounted for, following Monday’s attack by Boko Haram insurgents on Government Girls Secondary School, Dapchi.

A teacher in the school had, after a head count on Tuesday, disclosed that 94 of the students who reportedly fled into the bush in the wake of the attack, were unaccounted for.

But the state government said yesterday that of the 94 students said to have been missing, 48 had returned to their parents, leaving a balance of 46.  It also announced a shut down of the school for a week to enable the students reunite with their parents after what it described as a horrible experience.

This is even as Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, expressed shock over the fate of the missing students and charged the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to ensure the safe return of the students to their families.

The Federal Government, in its reaction, said it was currently in consultations with stakeholders in the education sector to develop a national policy on safety and security in schools across the country.

Meanwhile, parents of the students laid siege to the school yesterday, awaiting return of their children from the bush they fled into when the terrorists struck.

Speaking with newsmen in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, the Commissioner of Police Abdulmaliki Sumonu, said: “815 out of the 926 students were physically seen in the school as at Tuesday.  There are reports that more girls have returned to the school after the head count.”

According to him, there were no abductions or deaths inside the school.

“I asked the school’s principal if there were abductions or deaths in the school and she said no.  I am not unaware of the rumours going on, l want to appeal to the press and the society to please cooperate with the security agencies in this situation,” he said.

The commissioner said the security forces had pursued the insurgents to a new location where they were reported to have been seen.

48 students return to parents

The Commissioner for Education, Mohammed Lamin, said while 28 of the missing students returned on Tuesday night, 20 more returned yesterday morning.

“This has brought down the 94 missing students realised at the yesterday headcount to 48 this morning (yesterday).  We are still hopeful that more are returning soon,” he said.

Most of the students were said to have been rescued by villagers in bushes around Dapchi.

There has been tension in the area amid speculations that some of the students might have been abducted by the insurgents.

Yobe closes school after Boko Haram attacks

Meanwhile, the state government has closed down the school for one week to enable students recover from the trauma they went through during the invasion by the insurgents.

Leader of Yobe State delegation to the institution and Permanent Secretary, Yobe State Ministry of Education, Alhaji Modu Ma’aji Ajiri, announced the closure while addressing the students who returned from their hideout in the morning after the attack.

The permanent secretary said the closure of the school was to enable the students return home and reunite with their families after the horrible experience.

He urged them to resume after the one week break as measures had been put in place to ensure adequate security in the school and the entire Dapchi community.

During the inspection visit, over 95% of the about 1,000 students and their teachers that escaped to nearby communities had returned.

It was learned that some of the the students ran as far as between 15 and 25 kilometers to escape the insurgents.

However, Effort has been intensified by the government and security personnel to trace those still at large.

Parents besieged the school as early as 6am yesterday to know the whereabouts of their children, with some of them shedding tears while others looking visibly worried.

So far, there is no established case of abduction during and after the attacks.

Ensure release of students— PDP

Reacting to the attack on the school, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said it was shocked by reports that 94 female students had been declared missing after insurgents attacked the school.

The party in a statement signed by National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said:  “Indeed, we are very disturbed by this ugly development, especially given the conflicting reports on the whereabouts of these innocent girls.

“Our party restates that the life, safety and well being of all Nigerians remain of paramount importance to us and we, therefore, insist that all efforts must be exerted to find these students.

“The PDP is monitoring development on the position of the Nigeria Police investigation of the matter. We, however, charge the Inspector General of Police to immediately put all machinery in place to unravel this disturbing situation and recover the missing children.

“We also urge the All Progressives Congress, APC-controlled Federal Government to live up to its basic responsibility of protecting lives and property in our country.”

Efforts on to recover missing students— Gov

The office of Governor Ibrahim Geidam, in a statement by Abdullahi Bego, Director-General, Press Affairs to Governor, said:  “Following the incursion of suspected Boko Haram terrorists into Dapchi, headquarters of Bursari Local Government Council and the Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC) there, the Yobe State government is working with the Nigerian Army and other security and law enforcement agencies to ensure that all students in the school are fully accounted for.

“As the public is aware, the students were helped by their teachers to escape through the night to the surrounding bush and villages as the terrorists stormed the town last Monday.

“Of the 926 students in the school, over 50 are still unaccounted for as of the time of this statement. However, the Yobe State government has continued to receive information about some of the girls being found in the general area to which they escaped.

“The state government is coordinating with the army and law enforcement to ensure that those girls are returned safely. The Yobe State government has no credible information yet as to whether any of the schoolgirls was taken hostage by the terrorists.

“His Excellency, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam is deeply saddened and outraged by the unfortunate event and has directed that all relevant personnel and agencies work closely with the army and other security organisations to address the situation.

“The Yobe State government assures parents and the school community that it will do everything necessary to ensure that all the missing girls are found and returned to their school and families and that security is improved in the area.”

FG plans national policy on safety, security in schools

In its reaction, the Federal Government said it was currently in consultations with stakeholders in the education sector to develop a national policy on safety and security in schools across the country.

The Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu, stated this at a one-day national dialogue on safety and security of schools in Nigeria, organised by Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, in conjunction with the United Nations Democracy Fund, UNDEF, in Abuja.

Adamu, who was represented by Assistant Director,  Basic and Secondary Department in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Ernest Udoh, disclosed that this became necessary because the country currently does not have a national policy to guarantee safety and security in schools nationwide.

Government’s position came against the backdrop of recent attack on the girl school in Yobe State, a few years after the Chibok incident.

Speaking on the occasion, Executive Director, WARDC, Mrs. Abiola Afolabi, lamented that despite government’s efforts, threats to safe and secure schools still existed today, not only in the North East but all over Nigeria.

She also stated that the challenge of poor policy direction on issues of security and safety in schools was a major concern in need of urgent intervention.

Challenges in schools

She said:  “Some of the reasons are beyond obvious security such as crowded classrooms and hostels, single doors in classrooms and hostels, little or no security personnel, lack of perimeter fencing, absence of clear labelled entry/exit points and muster points amongst others.

“Acknowledging that government bears the main responsibility for the education of students, each and everyone of us has a role to play in ensuring that students learn in a safe, secure and conducive environment.

Afolabi disclosed that schools in many parts of the country had been left porous and unprotected as safety and security had not been prioritised or in some cases utterly neglected.

She argued that the flawed policy design and direction about schools’ safety and security gave rise to situations whereby, even in the face of threats over a long period of time, no security measures were made for adequate protection of schools and pupils in schools.

“There is also low community support and ownership of schools by communities in which they are located. In the face of threats, it is not unusual that communities resort to self-help and form vigilante groups for collective protection.

“These communal efforts are rarely extended to the schools which are thus left more vulnerable as the communities take it for granted that such schools are government properties and therefore responsibility of the state to provide protection for the schools,” she noted.

She further bemoaned the fact that responses so far to the challenge that has made schools unsafe and insecure for children in Nigeria has been mostly gratuitous and therefore not sufficient.

However, Afolabi averred that with the support of UNDEF, the safe school project has promoted community dialogue and stakeholder engagement on safe and secure schools.

She noted that through a participatory approach, it has built capacity of schools, communities and civil society to engage authorities on school security and safety programmes; design and establish early warning systems; and the adoption of minimum standards/guidelines and plan of action for safe and secure schools and implementation of safer school initiative in the target states.

She said,  “Our work with schools and communities from Kaduna North, Kaduna South and Zaria with the support of UNDEF, have led to the development of standards/guidelines and plan of action for safe and secure schools which are the minimum requirements for all schools in regards to safety and security. The Safe School Alliance is therefore the creation of a platform made up of schools, communities and civil society organisations to push for a more safe and secure school for our children as contained in the guidelines. We have launched in the three states, safe school alliance which will be the driving force in states ensuring that schools adopt initiatives on safety and security.

“They will engage policy makers and also create awareness through community radio programmes and other sensitization activities.”

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