In the northeastern state of Yobe, anger was building following initial reports from the government that claimed the military had saved the girls from the clutches of Boko Haram.
When the regional government in Yobe said on Wednesday that the girls had been rescued, local residents celebrated in the streets. But the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while speaking to journalists on Friday, apologized to villagers, admitting the girls were still unaccounted for.
Boko Haram, a jihadist group with factions that have ties to ISIS, has been fighting an insurgency in northeastern Nigeria since 2009, aiming to form a breakaway state.
Four years ago in Chibok, they kidnapped 270 schoolgirls, sparking international outrage and a global campaign #BringBackOurGirls, which was supported by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.
Mohammed, the minister of information, said that when the militants were approaching the school in the town of Dapchi, the principal told the students to run to safety.
There has been confusion and mixed reports on the exact number of children who are still missing. Local sources told Reuters that an assembly at the school on Tuesday indicated that there were more than 90 students absent. Footage on local media showed anxious parents crying in distress as they waited for any news on the fate of their children, fearing the same fate as the schoolgirls of Chibok.
Visiting the community in Dapchi on Friday, Mohammed said Boko Haram’s influence was waning, and it was trying to attract international attention.
“What you must understand is that these are the dying days of Boko Haram and what they intend to do is embarrass the government," he said. "Their power has gone down completely.”
The group behind the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has called on the Nigerian government to immediately investigate the disappearance of the girls at the Dapchi school, according to a statement on their Facebook page.