The Nigerian schoolgirls – from rescue to misinformation

The Nigerian schoolgirls – from rescue to misinformation

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On April 16, I blogged about the news that over 100 schoolgirls had been abducted. On the 17th (yesterday), I blogged about the rescuing of the schoolgirls (well, all but eight) and noted that this was great news for everyone – the parents, the kids, the new military chiefs and the President (as it’s near to an election). This morning, I saw an increasing number of stories that suggested most of the children were still missing. I thought this was very odd. Why on earth would an important military official spread misinformation or falsehoods? It made no sense to me at all.

When I read the articles in detail, I found that it was true, unfortunately. Major General Chris Olukolade admitted the mistake, as you can see here and here. Olukolade had this to say:

“The defence headquarters wishes to defer to the school principal and governor’s statement on the number of students still missing”

The same article had this statement from┬áMallam Inuwa Kubo, who is Borno State’s (where the school is located) Education Commissioner:

“We have recovered about 20 girls now and they are with us. After they escaped, the girls went to village heads who live close to where they found themselves and the local leaders brought them to us”

It is worth noting that in a Wall Street Journal article from the 17th (yesterday), the figure for girls rescued is 30 (a figure they also got from Kubo). It seems that people have different approaches to how the word ‘about’ should be used.

If we assume that the figure is 20, it means that 109 girls are still missing. That’s just 15.5% that have been rescued. In my initial post about the abductions, I mentioned that the children could be used by the Islamic extremists (supposedly Boko Haram) as cooks, or even sex slaves. In the aforementioned Wall Street Journal article, they note that forced marriages are also an option. Forced marriages are wrong in any sense, but particularly when one or both of those getting married is under age. It’s just another way that their innocence and childhood can be lost forever.

Lawan Zanna is a parent of one of the schoolgirls who is still missing. She had this to say about the confusion and misinformation:

“For the military (which) is supposed to find and rescue our children to be spreading such lies shows that they have no intention of rescuing our girls”

‘Misinformation’

I don’t know whether Major General Chris Olukolade is the one to blame here, but you can understand if the parents and families choose to ‘shoot the messenger’.

As a blogger, I rely on multiple news sources to provide me with all the information necessary to give high quality analysis. These news sources have their own sources, which they obviously assume are reliable. I am certainly not to blame for the misinformation and neither are the sources that I used. As I have just mentioned, there’s also no guarantee that it’s Olukolade’s fault. However, someone in the military or at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) made a massive mistake.

The initial false statement was reported and assumed to be true by well-known organisations such as CNN, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Time and more.

One of the funnier points can be found of this screenshot I took of the Al Jazeera website:

You will see in the list of articles under the Africa heading and the one above, there are articles about both the freeing of the schoolgirls and the ongoing search. After doing a Google search for more articles, I came across this in the search results:

This shows another example of news about the ongoing search following news about the rescue.

The Nigerian President (Goodluck Jonathan) recently replaced the senior figures in the military. This was mainly because of their failure to halt the violence and other acts of groups like Boko Haram in the north/north-east. They also have a history of not checking their facts and misinforming. The following is from the Wall Street Journal article I linked to earlier:

“The Nigerian military has twice proclaimed the death of Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, only to see him resurface in new videos in which he taunts the army with a beaming smile.”

Finally…

You cannot call this a comedy of errors. It is not remotely funny. However, the errors in the handling of the abductions are deeply worrying. It affects the trust in the military, doesn’t give the new chiefs a good start, gives Chris Olukolade problems and also gives President Jonathan a headache when he will be attempting to get re-elected soon.

The parents are complaining and so are school officials. They are making their voices heard and rightly so. This misinformation does no-one any good.

20 of the schoolchildren are safe, but 109 remain missing. I worry about them and so do many others. I hope they are rescued (with proof) before anything else happens to them.

Hopefully the next post I make about this story tells you that they have all been rescued.

So, what do you think?

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