Nigeria’s army and police on Monday publicly disagreed over the security arrangements that were in place in the northeastern town where 110 girls were abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants.
The army issued a statement in which it said soldiers were withdrawn from Dapchi, in Yobe state, before the girls were seized from their school in the town by armed insurgents on Feb. 19.
The attack was one of the largest abductions since the Chibok kidnappings of 2014 in which more than 250 girls were taken by the Islamist militant group. It has prompted questions about the ability of security forces to fight insurgents which the government has repeatedly said have been defeated.
“Troops earlier deployed in Dapchi were redeployed to reinforce troops at Kanama, following attacks on troops,” army spokesman Onyema Nwachukwu said in an emailed statement. Kanama is a town near the border with Niger some 120 km (75 miles) from Dapchi.
“This was on the premise that Dapchi has been relatively calm and peaceful and the security of Dapchi town was formally handed over to the Nigeria police division located in the town,” he said. No details were given of when the redeployment took place.
Sumonu Abdulmaliki, Yobe state police commissioner, later issued a statement saying the claim of a handover was “untrue, unfounded and misleading”.
“There was no time that the military informed the police of their withdrawal, consulted or handed over their locations in Dapchi town to the police,” he said in the emailed statement.
President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged on Monday that the girls had been abducted and said the government was determined to rescue them. The authorities had previously referred to the girls, not seen since the attack on their school, as missing.
“Let me clearly reiterate the resolve of this administration to ensure all persons abducted by the insurgents are rescued or released safely,” Buhari said in comments broadcast by state television.
He said security agencies had been ordered to make every effort to return “the abducted girls to their families”.