The Presidency has claimed ignorance of the information about the death of 98 Chibok school girls who remained in Boko Haram captivity four years ago.
Ahmad Salkida, self-exiled journalist, whose high-profile investigation into Boko Haram activities caused him to flee the country in 2013 to the United Arab Emirate, revealed only 15 of the 113 schoolgirls were alive.
Without denying the new information, an unsigned statement from the Presidency on Saturday said: “Following the numerous press enquiries on the information contained in the series of tweets by Mr Ahmed Salkida, we wish to reiterate that the information is not known to the officials of this administration either from the captors of the Chibok girls or the international intercessors who are working with us.
“We wish to confirm that Mr Salkida is not involved, on behalf of the Nigerian government in the processes leading to the release of the over 100 Chibok Girls that have returned to their families, so far, and is not involved in the current processes to secure the release of those still held in captivity.
“If there is any information he has concerning the remainder of those girls, he has, up till this moment not approached the government Nigeria with it. All press enquiries on the subject should therefore be directed to Mr. Salkida.
“The facts as known to our officials and the international contacts assisting this process are that the remaining Chibok girls are there and we are not relenting on getting their release.
“As stated by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, the government is not relenting. We will continue to persist, and the parents should please not give up. They are also advised not to lose faith in this government’s ability to fulfil its promise that the girls will not be abandoned or forgotten.”
Speaking via his Twitter handle, @ContactSalkida, Salkida said: “Today, my painstaking investigations on the Chibok schoolgirls revealed that just a handful of the 113 Chibok girls are alive. Many of the girls have died as a result of crossfire and bombardments of the security forces that, no doubt, were intent on rescuing them.
“I regret to state that only 15 out of the 113 Chibok girls are alive today, based on my investigations in the last three months. My investigations also revealed that they are no longer under the control of Abubakar Shekau. According to sources, they are now ‘married’ and only their ‘husbands’ can decide their fates.
“If they are divorced and the men are killed, that is when Shekau’s decision takes precedence and, in this instance, since the girls have been indoctrinated, their leader has no right to negotiate for their release, no matter the ransom offered, multiple sources said. It will be unbearable to share the names of the 15 that are alive; this is the responsibility of government.
“The way out for these girls is a military rescue or [negotiations] with individual captors to release their ‘wives’ in return for some kind of deal, but this will mean death [for] these fighters [because] the terror group now sees the girls as part of their own and must be protected.”
According to him, his revelations were aimed at stirring debates “to demand more insight and bring closure to the parents.”
Expressing his condolences to the parents of the girls, he told them that “the nation must not fail you [in the rescue of] your daughters and also fail to tell you the truth. You must always remember that your daughters were stronger than the rest of us that couldn’t do more to avert this catastrophe.”
But Brigadier-General John Agim, the Director of Defence Information, told The Cable, an online medium, that the report that only 15 of the 113 missing Chibok schoolgirls are alive is meant to discourage the government.
Agim, who noted that it was not the first time that the girls were said to have been killed or married off, maintained that after such claims, the government had gone ahead to secure the release of some of them.
“They are only trying to discourage the government. In our operations, we have rescued hundreds of people in Boko Haram captivity, and when we profile them, most are not Chibok girls. But, look at when they first said the girls had been married off, we were able to secure the release of some of the girls.
“Every time, they are always saying the girls have been killed, we continue to secure their release just like we did recently,” Agim said.
However, when contacted by Sunday Tribune to verify Salkida’s claim on the number of remaining Chibok girls, Mrs Aisha Wakil, a woman popularly known as Mama Boko Haram due to her influence with the insurgents, declined comment.
Her spokesman, Mr Lawal Shoyode, said she was still studying the situation and would react appropriately at the right time.
Following the revelation by Ahmed Salkida, a journalist known to have access to the insurgent group, that only 15 of the 113 yet to be released are now alive, the Presidency said that Information was unknown to government.
On April 14, 2014, about 277 girls were abducted from the Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State, with the Federal Government securing the release of over 100 girls, while 57 of the girls reportedly escaped on their own.