Daily Trust

Govt officials almost scuttled Dapchi girls” rescue-DSS

President Muhammadu Buhari was told Friday that utterances of government functionaries who were not competent to comment on the abduction of Chibok girls posed challenges that almost marred the rescue efforts. 

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The Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura, disclosed this at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja when Buhari received the freed 105 Dapchi girls.

The DSS boss, however, did not name those officials.

Daura added that the negative impact of social media on otherwise classified operations also almost scuttled efforts to rescue the girls who abducted by Boko Haram terrorists on February 19.

He put the number of the students abducted from the the Government Girls’ Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, at 111.

He noted that the girls were on March 21 freed following "painstaking backchannel dialogue with their abductors." 

The DSS said the remaining six Dapchi girls were yet to be accounted for and dialogue on them was still ongoing. 

"However, before you today Mr. President are two additional young Primary School pupils namely; Hafsat HARUNA, eleven years old and Primary Six pupil and Mala Maina BUKAR, thirteen (3) years old also, a Primary Six pupil," Daura said.

On the negotiation process, he recalled that Buhari had given a clear directive to security agencies to use peaceful options to ensure the timely and safe release of the girls. 

He stated: "What followed were intense behind the scene dialogue spearheaded by the Department of State Services. The insurgents’ only condition was their demands for cessation of hostilities and temporary ceasefire to enable them return the girls at the point they picked them. They required assurances that the government security forces would keep to this. 

The exercise was arduous and quite challenging. The sensitivity of the operation and some uncertainties surrounding it particularly routes to be used, nature of transportation, realization and concern that the girls were not kept at one place, issues of encountering Military checkpoints within the theater and indeed keeping the operation on strictly the ‘Principles of Need-to-Know’ made the whole exercise more complicating."

Daura said beyond the release of the abducted girls, primary interest for engaging in the dialogue was aimed at getting a permanent and possible cessation of hostilities; discussing the fate of the arrested insurgents and innocent Nigerian citizens being held hostage; and the ossibility of granting amnesty to repentant insurgents. 

"These presently seem problematic because the insurgents are factionalized while holding various spheres of influence in their guerrilla controlled enclaves," he said.

He said the DSS had, however,  managed to successfully conclude the operation leading to the release of the abducted Dapchi girls.

Daura also stated that on their release, the girls were taken into the DSS medical facility and were put through programmes to give them mental stability. 

"As such, they are given psychological mental evaluation conducted by trained specialists," he said.

The DSS chief said about four of the girls discovered to have broken limbs and were sent for x-ray. 

He said almost all of them had one skin infection or the other having not taken bath for over a month. 

"They have been medically examined, and those with ailments were treated The measures are to ensure that they are in good health," he added.

He stated that the girls, including four representatives of their school (the principal and vice) as well as their parents were brought into the medical facility as part of measures to relieve tension and anxiety, saying "the presence of these representatives have further re-assured and stabilized the girls."

He said due to Nigeria’s experience of insurgency over the years, efforts should be sustained towards ensuring the release of all abducted persons in the North-east Theatre of Operation; improving the strategic plan for the safety of schools in vulnerable locations, using all available national assets; improving on the coordination efforts amongst security agencies to avoid future incidents; and expanding the current dialogue towards conflict mitigation and resolution to get an everlasting peace for the entire sub-region.

Daura said the feat so far recorded in the release of the victims was a clear example of collaboration among security agencies.