How many girls were abducted at the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State?
The puzzle got more complex yesterday, with parents insisting that 234 were missing.
Initially, 129 were believed to have been kidnapped by Boko Haram; 52 were said to have returned.
Governor Kashim Shettima said 77 girls were being searched for.
But the distraught governor was shocked yesterday to learn that 234 girls were actually kidnapped.
The governor shunned security advice to visit the troubled town where parents told him that officials would not listen to them when they drew up their list of names of missing children and the figure reached 234.
A source on the entourage of the governor, gave reasons for the mix-up on figures of the abducted girls.
He said: “During the visit of Governor Kashim Shettima today (yesterday), parents thronged and filed 234 complaints of missing schoolgirls.
“From the complaints, there were 129 science students at the hostel. They had not completed their exams and were expected to remain in the hostel.
“Then, there were over 105 arts students, who had completed the exams and were expected to leave the hostel in the evening of that day hours before the attack. “Unknown to the dormitory master, the art students remained at the hostel and were part of those abducted.
“The man gave his record of 129 science students as those abducted not knowing there were more.
“That gave rise to the mix up. The fact is that the parents are confused due to understandable anxiety.”
With this development, the whereabouts of 157 pupils are unknown.
Security officials had warned Shettima that it was too dangerous for him to drive to Chibok, 130 kilometres (80 miles) from Maiduguri, the state capital.
Education Commissioner Musa Inuwo Kubo and the principal of the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School had initially said that 129 science students were at the school to write a physics exam when the abductors struck, after midnight on April 14. Twenty-eight pupils escaped from their captors between Tuesday and Friday. Then another 16 were found to be day scholars who had returned to their homes in Chibok before the attack. That left 85 missing students, according to school officials.
This latest confusion comes after the military had reported last week that all but eight of those abducted had been rescued — but then retracted the claim the following day.
Security sources have said they are in “hot pursuit” of the abductors, but so far they have not rescued any of the girls and young women, aged between 16 and 18.
Parents and other town residents have joined the search for the students in the Sambisa Forest, which borders Chibok town and is a known hideout for the militants.
Boko Haram was on the rampage last week, staging four attacks in three days that began with a massive explosion during rush hour at a busy bus station Monday morning in Nyanya, Abuja, which killed no fewer than 75 people and injured 141.
The school’s principal, Asabe Kwambura, who said she was working with parents to compile a complete registry of those taken, said: “A total of 230 names were registered by parents.
“So far, 43 girls have escaped on their own. We still have 187 missing.”
“We are appealing to Boko Haram to show mercy and release these girls,” said Chibok resident Haladu Sule.
“The people of Chibok… will know no peace until they are freed.”
Locals have fiercely criticised the rescue mission, claiming they have not yet seen a large build-up of troops in the region or any indication that the military had mobilised a major search effort.
Some of the girls who escaped have said the Islamists took the hostages to Borno’s Sambisa Forest area, where Boko Haram is known to have well-fortified camps.
Parents have trekked through the bushlands of the remote region in a desperate search for their daughters, pooling money to buy fuel for motorcycles and cars.
Some turned back after being warned that the Islamists were nearby and prepared to slaughter anyone who advanced further.