The Presidency has reacted to a claim by a Nigerian journalist, Ahmad Salkida, that most of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls in Boko Haram captivity are dead.
The Presidency said the claim by Salkida is not known to the Nigerian government.
Over 200 schoolgirls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok by the insurgents in April 2014. While many of the girls were released, a few others narrowly escaped the abduction.
Salkida in a series of Tweet, on Saturday, claimed that only 15 of the at least 113 Chibok girls believed to be in Boko Haram captivity are alive.
Mr Salkida claimed that after he had conducted in-depth investigation he discovered many of the girls died during crossfire with security forces. He added that the remaining 15 girls have since been married off to Boko Haram terrorists.
“Today, my painstaking investigations on the #Chibokschoolgirls revealed that just a handful of the 113 #ChibokGirls are alive. Many of the girls have died as a result of crossfires and bombardments of the security forces that no doubt was intent on rescuing them.
“I regret to state here that only 15 out of the 113 #Chibokgirls are alive today, based on my investigations in the last three months and we have already seen some of them in a video, which I exclusively obtained and was published on SR website.
“What is the status of the remaining 15 girls as far as negotiations are concerned? My investigations also revealed that they are no longer under the control of #AbubakarShekau. According to sources, they are now ‘married’ and only their ‘husbands’ can decide their fates,” some of his tweets read.
However, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu debunked Salkida’s claims in a statement in Abuja on Saturday.
The presidential aide said the information disclosed by Salkida is not known to the Federal Government. He also denied that Salkida was involved, on behalf of the Nigerian government, in the processes leading to the release of the over 100 Chibok girls.
“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.”
Shehu added that Salkida never approached the Nigerian government with the information he had concerning the remaining schoolgirls in captivity.
He also insisted that the girls are still alive and the government is doing all they can to ensure the release of the girls.
“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 enquirers 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 also advised not to lose faith in this government’s ability to fulfil its promise, that the girls will not be abandoned or forgotten,” the statement read.
‘Remaining Chibok Girls Will Never Be Forgotten’
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier promised that the remaining Chibok girls in Boko Haram captivity will not be forgotten as long as he remains Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The President’s comment was on Friday, April 13, a day to the fourth anniversary of the abduction of the girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State.
In a series of tweets, the Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said President Buhari assured the parents of the girls that “their daughters will never be forgotten or abandoned to their fate”.
“Don’t imagine for a moment that we have forgotten about our daughters or that we consider their freedom a lost course,” he quoted the President, to have said.