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Dapchi The media (and Buhari) should stop disrespecting the memory of abduction

There's a worrying trend in how the important statistics of the Dapchi abduction are being misreported or discussed.

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The media (and Buhari) should stop disrespecting the memory of Dapchi play Some of the released Dapchi girls (AFP/File)

When Boko Haram invaded and kidnapped students of Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe state, on February 19, 2018, unpleasant history repeated itself in a way nobody wanted or expected.

Now, three months after that fateful abduction, it has taken many twists and turns.

On March 21, 2018, a month after the abduction happened, all but six of the students originally kidnapped were released.

Of those six, five are officially unaccounted for, as their fellow schoolmates have reported that they died in the custody of the terrorists back. They reportedly died of heart attack and stress while they were being moved, and were buried in the bush by their captors.

The only other abducted student who remains in captivity is Leah Sharibu who the terrorists have refused to release because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.

The case of Leah Sharibu has been a hot topic as many, from advocacy groups to Christian organisations have called for her release and noted the symbolism of her continued stay in captivity.

Despite the well-publicised nature of the Dapchi abduction which generated a media frenzy that's only second to a similar abduction that happened in Chibok four years ago, the reportage of the incident in the media still leaves a little to be desired.

More specifically, there has been a puzzling streak of reporting the wrong statistics of the victims of the abduction.

A misrepresentation of figures

Dapchi principal begs parents to send their children back to school play Signpost at Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Bursari local government area of Yobe state where schoolgirls were abducted by terrorist group, Boko Haram, on February 19, 2018 (Twitter/@BashirAhmaad)
 

If you take the time to scour media reports from different media organisations, both local and foreign, there's a disagreement on the number of students that were actually kidnapped in Dapchi.

Yesterday, a report from a United States media organisation noted that 109 students were kidnapped by Boko Haram during the abduction.

Over the past couple of months, I've seen conflicting figures, especially on the number of released students, from media organisations in the country.

Perhaps, the biggest offender of this trend is the country's president himself, President Muhammadu Buhari.

During his working visit to the United States of America, Buhari met with US president, Donald Trump, in the White House and told the international media that 106 students were kidnapped.

He said, "...but the Dapchi one, 106 that were kidnapped, we got 100 back, four died, and one is still held in captivity."

This trend is bothersome because there's actually a reliable source to quote the correct statistics; but for some reason, so much confusion still exists.

What's the actual number of kidnapped students?

In the early days of the abduction, there were conflicting figures on the number of school students that were actually kidnapped.

While the number initially fluctuated between the 50s and 90s, the federal government promised to do a comprehensive investigation of the actual number of students kidnapped. A week after the abduction, the federal government officially reported that 110 students were kidnapped from the school.

This figure was based on an investigation by the school's authorities and the Yobe state government.

Dapchi schoolgirl tells Pulse how Boko Haram kidnapped 110 play

A member of staff of Government Girls Science and Technical College reads out names of abducted Dapchi girls

(Pulse)

 

With 110 announced as the official figure at the time, the media ran with it, and the world begged for the return of 110 girls.

However, the tune changed one month later when Boko Haram released the students by driving them back to Dapchi after negotiating with the government.

After two days of sorting through the released students, the federal government officially announced that 107 people were released by the terrorist group.

Of these 107, one of them was a boy. This raised some more confusion as no boy had been reported to have been kidnapped by the terrorist group when the abduction happened a month earlier.

The government failed to officially address this until after the released abduction victims met with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa where he announced that "one hundred and seven (107) students (105 Dapchi schoolgirls + 2 others) previously abducted, have been unconditionally released by their abductors."

Buhari wants Nigerians to forget dead Dapchi girls play President Muhammadu Buhari hosted released Dapchi students at the Presidential Villa (AFP)

 

Two days later, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, finally cleared the air on what was really going on.

According to him, 111 schoolgirls had actually been abducted by Boko Haram in February. The school authorities had omitted one girl in error and forgotten to put her name on the list of the abducted victims, for some reason.

In addition to the 111 schoolgirls originally kidnapped from the Dapchi school, a primary school boy identified simply as Bala, and another primary school girl were also abducted with them, making the total of kidnapped students 113.

The abduction of the forgotten three was not disclosed until after they were released by Boko Haram.

Mohammed's statement read, "A total of 111 girls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary and Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi on 19 Feb. 2018. That means one student was not captured on the list of 110 abducted students that was compiled by the school, on the basis of which the Federal Government gave the number of abducted schoolgirls as 110.

"Also kidnapped were two other persons, who are not students of the college. They include a primary school boy who came to the school to sell pure water and another primary school girl. That brings the total number of abducted persons on that day to 113."

Quick maths of Dapchi abduction

Police DIG in Yobe to explore ways to rescue Dapchi schoolgirls play A head count of students of Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, was conducted just a day after Boko Haram raided the school and abducted scores of students (SaharaReporters)
 

So, to do a quick analysis of the explicit figures of the Dapchi abduction: 113 were kidnapped, but 2 of them were not students of GGSTC.

107 were released a month later with 105 of them being schoolgirls of GGSTC, and the other two being the primary school students that aren't students of GGSTC.

6 girls remain unaccounted for, with 5 reported dead and the last one, Leah Sharibu, held in captivity for sticking to her Christian faith.

That makes a total of 113 original abducted victims.

A plea for accuracy

For a place like Nigeria where statistics about tragic events are vague or unreliable most of the times, it's understandable that there could be conflicting reports about an event such as this, but reliable statistics about this particular event exist in the public space so it's really exhausting that there are still conflicting numbers being casually passed around when reporting on the Dapchi abduction.

Anytime anyone misreports the actual number of abducted Dapchi victims by one or by a whopping nine, whether it's a media organisation or the president of the country that should know better, they sell the tragedy of Dapchi short and tarnish the memory of the losses that it brought on certain families and the hurt it continues to inflict on others.

113 young students were kidnapped in Dapchi and there's a need to keep the numbers straight.

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