At least 100 final-year students of Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok local government area of Borno State were abducted and taken to an unknown destination by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram on Monday night, eyewitnesses and security operatives have said.
LEADERSHIP gathered from impeccable sources that the gunmen who had engaged in a shootout with security operatives in Chibok town succeeded in killing a soldier and a police officer before taking the girls in a hijacked lorry into the bushes.
The students returned to school in spite of the recent shutdown of schools by the Borno state government to write their final-year examination (SSCE).
LEADERSHIP also gathered from credible sources from Chibok town which is about 135km from Maiduguri, the state capital, that some of the girls were able to escape while being driven away in the open truck.
The commissioner of police, Borno State command, Alhaji Lawan Tanko, was able to confirm the incident to journalists on phone but did not state the actual number of students that were abducted.
“We have received the report about the kidnapping of students by gunmen in a school in Chibok local government area last night; but we have no details on the actual number of the students for now; our men are still on the trail of the abductors,” he stated.
Efforts to get the local government chairman, Mr Babagana Chibok, were not successful as his number was not connecting. But a staff of Chibok local government told LEADERSHIP on phone that “the gunmen actually came in two Hilux pick-up vans but had to intercept a lorry that was conveying bags of grains to Askira-Uba local government; they offloaded the grains and ordered the abducted students into the lorry and took them away”.
He said, “We heard the girls wailing as the gunmen continued to shoot; we thought they were shooting the girls or something; but it was later on we understood from a few of them that were able to escape that they were being taken away by the gunmen.”
The local government official who pleaded not to be quoted for obvious security reasons told LEADERSHIP that some of the girls who had the village upbringing were able to demonstrate rare courage by holding unto tree branches as the lorry conveying them passed under low-branched tree and hung there until the unsuspecting kidnappers went far ahead before they would jump off the tree and flee back to the town.
“Many of the girls have been able to make it back through the bushes, but others are yet to be found; but we understand that the chairman of Chibok local government had led some security operatives to trail the track of the lorry,” said the LG worker.
A senior official of the State Security Service, who spoke off the record, told LEADERSHIP that two security men – a policeman and a soldier — died during the attack and abduction.
“The abduction happened at about 10pm when the hoodlums called Boko Haram attacked the school, killed a soldier and policeman and took away over 100 female students in a lorry. Luckily enough, our men have been able to trace the abductors to where the lorry conveying the girls broke down and our men have moved in to intercept the gunmen; but we understand that some of the girls were able to escape and make it back to the town,” he said.
Though Chibok, a quiet agrarian town, shares a very close border with Sambisa Forest, it has never experienced any attack by Boko Haram except in some of the nearby villages under its local government area.
The Borno State government had not reacted on the incident by press time and all efforts to get the commissioner for education, Musa Inuwa Kubo, was not fruitful.