As Nigerians hail the rescue of 200 girls and 93 women from Sambisa Forest on Tuesday by the Nigerian Army, the military authorities yesterday began the screening of the victims to establish whether the over 200 schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, abducted on April 14 last year by Boko Haram sect were among them.
The military high command had kept mute on the identities of the rescued females.
The Defence Headquarters, DHQ, on Tuesday said it would screen the rescued females to ascertain their identities.
But yesterday, the print and broadcast media were awash with reports that the Chibok girls were not among the rescued victims.
Defence spokesman, Brig-Gen. Chris Olukolade, who revealed the rescue of the females on Tuesday, had said that the military would screen the victims to know whether Chibok girls were among them.
But yesterday, Army spokesman, Col. Sani Usman told Reuters in a text message that: “The rescued 200 abducted girls are not Chibok girls.”
Olukolade had said that the hostages were freed as part of an ongoing operation to clear the Sambisa Forest of all militant bases.
He said that the rescued girls and women would be screened yesterday (Wednesday) to determine whether they were married to the militants, but as at the time of filing this report, no information was obtained from him as he did not answer calls to his phone on the issue.
Some of the tweets on defence twitter handle read: “The freed persons are now being screened and profiled. We will bring you details later.
“Troops captured and destroyed 3 terrorists camps including the notorious Tokumbere camp in the #Sambisa Forest Operation.
“Troops this afternoon rescued 200 girls & 93 women from #Sambisa Forest. We cannot confirm if the #ChibokGirls are in this group.”
It was however gathered that the rescued women were excited about their freedom, but sources confirmed to Nigerian Pilot that some of them were injured.
However, one official did not rule out that captives from other Boko Haram camps which were raided might include some of the abducted 200 girls.
Information about the fate of the kidnapped schoolgirls has been spotty and inconsistent, with some school officials giving conflicting figures on the number of girls who were abducted or escaped from their captors.
“We have no idea where the Chibok girls are or were,” CNN correspondent, Christian Purefoy reported.
Meanwhile, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, has described the military’s operation as gratifying, regardless of whether or not the rescued females form part of the schoolgirls abducted by the insurgents.
Through his spokesman, Isa Gusau, Governor Shettima said the lives, safety and well-being of all citizens of Borno are of equal importance to him and as such, he celebrates the news about the rescue with so much excitement in a manner he would celebrate when the military succeeds in freeing the Chibok schoolgirls whom he said were very dear to him as they were to the entire world.
The governor said his administration would prefer the military to remain the principal channel of information to the public since the rescue was a product of military operation and in order to avoid multiple sources of information which could bring about mix-ups.
His words: “I was so full of excitement, gratitude to God Almighty and commendation to our gallant armed forces for this great humanitarian feat. For me, the lives, safety and welfare of all citizens of Borno State are of equal importance.
“These rescued women are daughters, sisters and perhaps also mothers whose lives are important not just to their loved ones but also to me as Governor of Borno State whose mandate is to cater for the welfare of all those living in any part of Borno State regardless of who they are, their faith, gender, age, geopolitical origins and other background elements,” he said.