Dozens of girls are still missing several days after Boko Haram attacked their school in Dapchi, northeast Nigeria. Their disappearance sparked fears of a repeat of the 2014 kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Chibok.
Parents of the missing schoolgirls blamed the government for failing to provide adequate information on the missing schoolgirls. But Yobe state commissioner for education Alhaji Mohammed Lamin tells DW Adrian Kriesch that the parents refused to work with state authorities in finding the girls.
DW: The attack on the school happened on Monday evening. What can you tell us at this point in time, is there a clear number now as to how many girls are still missing?
Alhaji Mohammed Lamin: The attack happened on Monday evening around 6:30 to 7 PM. As at that time, most of the students ran into the bush and escaped the attack. But up to this moment, some have not reported back to the school. We have declared them missing. We are expecting to declare some 84 of the students as missing. But there are some parents whose daughters have reported home but didn’t tell us. Some might have escaped to some others places and have been kept in some villages or towns, but up to now, they have not brought them back to us.
Does that mean it is taking you a long time to release the names due to lack of cooperation from the parent?
The Dapchi attack calls into question how far pledges to improve security at schools have been implemented nearly four years after the Chibok abduction
Partially, yes. Some parents have refused to report to us. Someone even called us and said his child reported home. But when we asked the name and form number of the child, he refused to tell us. He said he wasn’t going to tell us. That is the kind of situation we are in.
You went to Dapchie yesterday with the governor and we learned that there was an attack on the convoy by possible angry parents. What happened?
They attacked us when the governor addressed the parents and said this is not anybody’s making. He said, “let’s take it as if it is from the almighty Allah and let’s pray for Allah to help us secure their release.” He also urged the parents to register those who have reported home because we are assuming up to this moment that some of them are missing when they are with their parents.
Do you understand that the people are angry and disappointed by the slow response?
Which slow response? Since this thing happened we have been on it. We have been trying to get the students back to the schools and to their homes. If a parent refuses to tell us that his or her child has reported home, whose fault should that be? It’s certainly not ours.
The parents seem to have lost trust in the government because it was unable to protect their children.
Who is not able to protect the children?
The convoy of Yobe state governor was attacked by angry parents who blame the government of providing adequate security and information
The government. The children were in a government school and that’s where they were attacked by terrorists.
What guarantees do you have that no thief will enter into your house? Basically, you are supposed to protect yourself in your house and we have done that at the girls’ school. We have fenced around the school; we have fenced around the dormitory where the children are. What other security do you want us to give to the school?
Adequate military personnel?
Do you expect us to provide military security to each of our schools? What we have been doing is patrol around the schools and the police are there doing that, even in Dapchie. What other security measure do you want us to take than asking the police to patrol the area? They are doing that but yet the boys came. Whose making is that? Is it the government’s making? Did the government send these boys to the schools? Certainly not.
But do you agree that it is the first priority and task of the government to guarantee the safety of its people?
Of course, that is the responsibility of the government and that’s what the government is doing.
Some people are wondering why is there still a boarding school operating in this area that is still affected by Boko Haram?
Where would you give them an education in a day secondary school in that area? The students are not only from Dapchie alone. There are students from other localities who are coming there to get their education.
Alhaji Mohammed Lamin is Yobe state commissioner for education
Interview: Adrian Kriesch