Pressure builds on Nigerian government after admitting schoolgirls 'rescued' from Boko Haram are still missing

The Nigerian government backtracked after claiming the girls had been rescued.

ByABC News
February 22, 2018, 7:00 PM

—LONDON -- Four days after dozens of schoolgirls went missing from a boarding school in Nigeria, the government was facing mounting pressure after admitting it erroneously told parents the students had been rescued.

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.

PHOTO: Sandals are strewn in the yard of the Government Girls Science and Technical College staff quarters in Dapchi, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
Sandals are strewn in the yard of the Government Girls Science and Technical College staff quarters in Dapchi, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images

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.

PHOTO: Hassana Mohammed, 13, who scaled a fence to escape an alleged Boko Haram attack on her Government Girls Science and Technical College, stands outside her home in Dapchi, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
Hassana Mohammed, 13, who scaled a fence to escape an alleged Boko Haram attack on her Government Girls Science and Technical College, stands outside her home in Dapchi, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images

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.

PHOTO: In this image taken from video, Lai Muhammed, Nigerian Minister of Information, speaks to the media in Dapchi, Yobe State, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
In this image taken from video, Lai Muhammed, Nigerian Minister of Information, speaks to the media in Dapchi, Yobe State, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018. Parents in northern Nigeria say more than 100 girls are still missing three days after suspected Boko Haram extremists attacked their school. The announcement comes after government officials in Yobe state acknowledged that some 50 young women remained unaccounted for in the Monday evening attack.
AP

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.

PHOTO: Soldiers (R) drive past a signpost leading to the Government Girls Science and Technical College staff quarters in Dapchi, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
Soldiers (R) drive past a signpost leading to the Government Girls Science and Technical College staff quarters in Dapchi, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images

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.”

PHOTO: Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gidan (R) speaks with Information Minister Lai Mohammed (C) and the head of the military force fighting Boko Haram, Brigadier General Rogers Nicholas, in Dapchi, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gidan (R) speaks with Information Minister Lai Mohammed (C) and the head of the military force fighting Boko Haram, Brigadier General Rogers Nicholas, on the premises of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, in Dapchi, Nigeria, Feb. 22, 2018.
Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images

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.

In 2017, the government paid a ransom of millions of dollars to secure the release of some 80 of the Chibok girls and teaching staff after negotiations were brokered along with Switzerland and the Red Cross. The Wall Street Journal reported that the sum was around 3 million euros.

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