The governor of Nigeria’s Yobe state told locals in the village of Dapchi on Thursday that the abducted schoolgirls who were reported to have been rescued from Islamist Boko Haram kidnappers were in fact still missing.
The state government on Wednesday said the schoolgirls had been rescued by the military, sparking celebration in the streets.
But four of those who heard state Gov. Ibrahim Gaidam speak said he had told villagers that no girls had been rescued.
“The government said yesterday the girls have been found, then the governor came today to say the soldiers are yet to find them. Why did they lie to us before?” said Ali Maidoya, who lives in Dapchi.
The students’ disappearance may be one of the largest since Boko Haram abducted more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014. That case drew global attention to the nine-year insurgency, which has sparked what the United Nations has called one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Boko Haram insurgents drove into Dapchi on Monday evening in trucks, some of them camouflaged and mounted with heavy guns, and attacked the girls’ school, sending hundreds of students fleeing.
On Wednesday, one witness told Reuters he had seen three trucks filled with weeping girls as he was forced by the militants to guide them away from the region.
There is confusion over the number of students now missing, with estimates ranging from around 50 to more than 100. State police, the Yobe government and others have all given different figures.
A roll-call at the girls’ school on Tuesday showed that 91 students were absent, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.