The Air Force has deployed 100 fighter jets in the search for the 110 schoolgirls abducted on February 19, the Federal Government said yesterday.
The students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State were abducted from their hostels by terrorists.
Twenty of the jets have flown 200 hours as at Monday evening, according to a fact sheet on the search released by Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation Lai Mohammed.
Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar relocated yesterday to Yobe State “to personally superintend the search for the girls”, the minister said.
He also released the details of the missing girls. Eight are in JSS1, 17 in JSS2, 12 in JSS3, 40 in SS1, 19 in SS2 and 14 in SS3. The girls’ ages range from 11 to 19 years.
“The list, which also contains the contact address and phone number of each missing girl, was verified by a 26-member Screening Committee that include the Executive Secretary, State Teaching Service Board, Musa Abdulsalam; Director, Schools’ Management, Ministry of Education, Shuaibu Bulama; Principal of GGSTC, Adama Abdulkarim; the two Vice Principals, Ali Musa Mabu and Abdullahi Sule Lampo; Admission Officer Bashir Ali Yerima, and the Form Masters for all the classes,” Mohammed said.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno, who constituted a 12-member committee “to unravel the circumstances surrounding the abduction”, gave the committee March 15 deadline to submit a report.
Gen. Munguno, who visited Governor Ibrahim Gaidam in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, yesterday announced that 80 other planes would join the search for the girls.
He told the governor: “The Nigerian Air Force has deployed 20 aircraft in Maiduguri and 80 others on their way. So far, 200 hours have been utilised in flying sorties looking for these girls.
“We have also been made aware of the fact that the Nigerian Air Force will step up its operation regardless of the very hard and severe weather condition.”
Giving further details of the security measures in place as well as efforts to get the girls back, Munguno said: “Back in Abuja, we have set up our own machinery in dealing with this situation. All the security agencies have been working together. The situation room has been expanded – the one in the office of the National Security Adviser that is linked directly to all other security agencies but most importantly to the theatre command over here.
“I have made efforts with my counterparts across the region to try and work and share intelligence together and see how quickly we can bring to an end this very unfortunate situation. But, apart from that, we are also looking at other measures in dealing with past occurrences and how to forestall any future occurrence. “
Air Marshal Abubakar and some other military chiefs were with Munguno at the meeting with the governor, who praised President Muhammadu Buhari for his efforts so far and for sending the third high-level delegation to the state within one week of the girls’ abduction.
Gaidam, nevertheless, said it is “unfortunate that prior to the attack, the Army units stationed in Dapchi and Bayamari towns were removed. ”We are, therefore, of the opinion that there is no reason whatsoever to take that untimely action since Dapchi is the headquarters of one of the frontline local governments and Bayamari too is one of the major settlements close to the neighbouring Republic of Niger associated with porous terrain that should be protected.”
Munguno assured that “the government will continue to push harder, dealing with all organisations – local and international – and engaging with every group that comes forward to see that these girls are brought back safely to their parents. This is a commitment that the government has made.”
The NSA committee to be inaugurated in Abuja today will be chaired by a military officer of the rank of Major General. It comprises one senior Provost each from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force; representatives of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA); Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA); the Police; Department of State Services (DSS); Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); two representatives of the Yobe State Government and a representative of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
The terms of reference of the Committee include ascertaining the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the girls, confirming the presence, composition, scale and disposition of security emplaced in Dapchi as well as in GGSTC before the incident and suggesting measures that can lead to the location and rescue of the girls.