The country broke into wild jubilation yesterday following the release of 21 of the Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists on April 14, 2014.
This is even as anxiety mounts over the fate of the remaining 179 girls.
The federal government has said that the 21 Chibok schoolgirls who were released by the Boko Haram terrorists were not swapped for any sect members, saying it is rather a unique process using a friendly approach and a friendly organisation.
It would be recalled that on the night of April 14 and 15, 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. Responsibility for the kidnap was claimed by Boko Haram.
Speaking during a world press conference, the minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described the release of the girls as a credible first step in the eventual release of all the Chibok schoolgirls in Boko Haram captivity.
According to him, “This is not a swap, this is unique because we also used friendly approach and friendly organisation, I repeat this is not a swap.”
He disclosed that the release was a significant because it was just a first step towards the eventual release of the other girls in the terrorists’ custody.
“Because we have been able to establish ever than before that the kind of confidence in the leadership of Boko Haram and Nigeria, I am not aware of any monetary transaction,’’ he added.
Speaking about the fate of other girls, who are still in the custody of the sect, the minister assured that the federal government would not relent until the whole girls gain total freedom.
“The release of 21 out of the Chibok schoolgirls does not meant the end of military operation it could means a new face to the conduct of the war against terrorism,’’ the minister stressed.
When asked if the federal government was still interested in giving Boko Haram amnesty, he replied, “Whatever it will take to get Boko Haram under control, we will do it through peace talk, dialogue among others. FG will continue to adopt carrot and stick approach. This negotiation is very delicate bearing in mind that we still have girls in captivity we must not do anything to jeopardise their freedom.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has made it clear that what it will take to get the girls in captivity from the Boko Haram insurgent we will do it.
“We can confirm that 21 of the girls were released, safely, to us by 5.30 this Thursday morning and they were flown to Kaduna from the location of their release. This is the most glaring manifestation to date of the unwavering commitment of Mr President to secure the safe release of the girls and reunite them with their families. It is also a result of the round-the-clock efforts by the Administration to put a closure to the sad issue of the kidnap of the girls.
“We expect the released girls to land in Abuja shortly. Ahead of their arrival, we have assembled a team of medical doctors, psychologists, social workers, trauma experts, etc to properly examine the girls, especially because they have been in captivity for so long.
They will also be adequately debriefed. We have the list of the 21 girls but we are now contacting their parents as part of the necessary verification exercise.
“As soon as that is concluded, we will release the names to the public. As we have always said, we have been working on the safe release of the girls and following all the leads available. In this instance, the moment we had a credible lead, Mr President gave the green-light to the DSS to pursue it. We can confirm that the DSS pursued the lead in collaboration with a friendly European country and a renowned international humanitarian organisation. The DSS was supported by the military.
“As soon as the necessary confidence was built on both sides, the parties agreed on the date and the location of the release of the 21 girls. Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides.
“We see this as a credible first step in the eventual release of all the Chibok girls in captivity. It is also a major step in confidence-building between us as a government and the Boko Haram leadership on the issue of the Chibok girls.
He, however, thanked Nigerians for their support and confident in the ability of Mr President to secure the safe release of our Chibok girls.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is happy with the release of the girls. Speaking to journalists at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, shortly before he left for Germany on a three-day official visit, Buhari assured that his administration will continue to protect Nigerians wherever they are. According to him, he had been briefed about the release of the girls and he was pleased about the development.
The president said: “Well, I am very pleased about it the girls’ release.
“I expect you to get through to the Minister of Information and Culture.
“I believe he will be duly briefed by the vice-president so that he will give you the details. I have just been briefed about it.
“To Nigerians all over, it is our responsibility and we will continue to secure them wherever they are.”
We Have Been Vindicated – BBOG
A member of the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG), Abba Kaka has stated that the group has been vindicated following the release of the 21 Chibok girls.
Kaka said that while many Nigerians believed that its advocacy was needless, the release of the 21 girls had shown that their advocacy was not in vain.
She added that she was keen on knowing if the girls were swapped with Boko Haram members adding that she is concerned and happy that the girls were released and will soon re-unite with their families.
”The news is incredible. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do anything. We believed that our government could rescue our girls even when they had feared they couldn’t. We expect them to do more. We gave the government there options. We needed the girls back and the military can strategies on how to deal with the Boko Haram members. We thank God. God has vindicated us. Even when my president said there was no credible evidence, we kept hoping and thank God, we didn’t lose hope,” she said.
Another member, Emman Shehu stated that the release of the girls is a major turning point in the group’s advocacy for the girls, adding that they have been tagged mad by some people but now their ‘insanity’ has compelled action from government.
“We have been tagged mad. We like it. If it takes insanity to make the government act, so be it. The madness is going to move to a new level. There was no need for the government to allow girls to suffer this much. There was no need for this. Buhari would have done something so that the girls will not stay a day longer. But we are happy because it is late than never,” he said.
Names of released girls
- Mary Usman Bulama
- Jummai John
- Blessing Abana
- Lugwa Sanda
- Comfort Habila
- Maryam Basheer
- Comfort Amos
- Glory Mainta
- Saratu Emmanuel
- Deborah Ja’afaru
- Rahab Ibrahim
- Helen Musa
- Maryamu Lawan
- Rebecca Ibrahim
- Asabe Goni
- Deborah Andrawus
- Agnes Gapani
- Saratu Markus
- Glory Dama
- Pindah Nuhu
- Rebecca Mallam
Chibok School Girls’ Timeline
April 2014: Boko Haram extremists kidnap 276 school girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State
About 50 of the girls escaped soon after but 219 were still missing.
April 19, 2014: Nigeria’s military said that most of the girls managed to escape or were freed and released a statement saying only eight girls were still unaccounted for. Major General Chris Olukolade, a military spokesman, said that the report that most of the girls had been freed was incorrect but was “not intended to deceive the public.” Parents insisted that more than 200 girls were still missing.
November 2014: Extremists seize Chibok, then Nigerian army takes back the town.
May 5, 2014: Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau released a video saying his group was behind the abduction of the girls and threatened to sell them in the market as “slaves.”
May 7, 2014: The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag hits one million tweets with US First Lady, Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban, joining the online campaign.
May 29, 2015: President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in, pledges to tackle Boko Haram “head-on.”
April 13, 2016: Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai called for more action to free schoolgirls abducted by militant Islamists in Nigeria a year ago.
In an open letter to the girls, she criticised Nigeria’s authorities and the international community for not doing enough to secure their release.
The Boko Haram militants caused global outrage after abducting the girls from Nigeria’s north-eastern Chibok town.
The UN estimates that the insurgency has now displaced 800,000 children.
Throughout 2015, the Nigerian military announces the rescue of hundreds of people, most of them women and children, who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram.
But the missing schoolgirls are not among them, despite several unconfirmed sightings.
Suicide attacks using women and young girls increase against “soft” civilian targets such as mosques, markets and bus stations, fuelling fears that Boko Haram might be using its captives.
On May 17, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria vow to fight Boko Haram together, in what Cameroon President Paul Biya terms a “declaration of war.”
The UN Security Council says the kidnappings “may amount to crimes against humanity,” as Britain, China, France, Israel and the US offer help.
US military specialists deploy to neighbouring Chad but later move elsewhere after Nigeria stops requesting their services.
April 13, 2016: Boko Haram video appears to show some of the Chibok girls and tearful mothers recognise their daughters also, US news channel CNN reports that Boko Haram has sent a “proof of life” video which shows 15 of the girls, the first concrete indication that at least some are still alive.
May 18, 2016 Amina Ali, one of the 219 abducted Chibok schoolgirls, was found in the Sambisa Forest by civilian vigilantes assisting the military. Pressure grows on Nigeria’s government to rescue the others. The Nigerian army confirms the first of the schoolgirls has been found. The 19-year-old, who later met President Buhari, was discovered with a four-month-old baby and a man she described as her husband near Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest enclave.
August 14, 2016: Boko Haram video says some Chibok girls killed in airstrikes, demands release of extremists in exchange for other girls’ freedom.
October 13, 2016: 21 Chibok School released as a result of government negotiations with Boko Haram.