By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Sunday Isuwa, Abuja and Francis Okoye, Maiduguri
Another 82 of the Chibok school girls who were abducted by the Boko Haram sect in April 2014 have been released, sources within the presidency confirmed to LEADERSHIP Sunday last night.
It was gathered that the release of this set of girls was the outcome of negotiation between the federal government and the terror group.
With this development, the federal government may have made real its promise that the remaining Chibok girls who were still in the captivity of the terrorists group will be released before the war against Boko Haram is considered over.
President Muhammadu Buhari had assured last month that the federal government was in talks to secure the release of the remaining girls.
He said the government remained “in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed”.
One of the sources at the presidency told this paper that barring any last minute change, the girls will arrive Abuja today for proper debriefing before they are reunited with their families.
“The government will soon release an official statement”, the source who didn’t want to be named in print added.
Without giving details, the personal assistant to the president on new media, Bashir Ahmad, in a tweet on his twitter simply said those released were in “huge numbers”.
Also, military sources confirmed the development, saying the girls were currently in Banki, close to Cameroon border where they are undergoing medical checks before being airlifted to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The girls were among the over 200 students abducted from a secondary school in Chibok community three years ago.
Their abduction which drew global attention triggered worldwide campaign with the hash tag, ‘#bringbackourgirls’, which waschampioned by former United States First Lady, Michelle Obama and a host of celebrities.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that about 21 Chibok were released in October last year in a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Red Cross, while a handful of others have escaped or been rescued.
Two other girls were found separately, in addition to those who escaped on the night of their abduction, bringing to over 50 those who regained freedom.
Yesterday’s release of 82 girls represents the largest group yet to be freed after years of frantic negotiations between the government and the terrorist group.
Also, Senator Shehu Sani who had been involved in previous negotiations for the release of the girls tweeted last night thus: “The Only authority to confirm the release of the Chibok girls is the federal government. However, credible negotiations took place”.
Special assistant to the Minister of information and Culture, Mr Segun Adeyemi, also comfirmed the release of the 82 school girls on his Facebook page last night.
PMB Pleased With Release Of Girls
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed delight over the release of 82 Chibok Girls by Boko Haram insurgents yesterday.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant media to the President, Garba Shehu ,said some Boko Haram suspects were exchanged for the Chibok girls .
“ The president is pleased announce that negotiations to release more of the Chibok Girls have born fruit with the release of 82 more Girls today.
“After months of patient negotiations, our security agencies have taken back these abducted girls in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities” Shehu said.
According to the presidential spokesman, the girls are due today (Sunday) in Abuja to be received by the president.
He said the president expressed his deep gratitude to security agencies, the military, the government of Switzerland, the Red Cross, local and international NGOs for the success of this operation.
“It may be recalled that when the first batch of 21 Girls were released in October last year,the President directed the security agencies to continue in earnest until all the Chibok Girls have been released and reunited with their families.
“The president has been receiving full reports from the Director-General of the State Security Services at each stage of the negotiations,“ he stated.
We Are Waiting For FG’s Confirmation – BBOG
Meanwhile, the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group said yesterday that its hopes and expectations were high as it awaits federal government’s confirmation of the release of the 82 Chibok girls.
A statement by its spokesperson, Sesugh Akume, to this effect described news of the freed 82 girls as yet-to-be-confirmed.
The statement made available to LEADERSHIP Sunday noted: “We have been made aware of the yet-to-be-confirmed news that a number of our missing 195 Chibok girls in captivity today for 1,118 have been released through a negotiated deal.
“It would be recalled that in October last year when the 21 were released, the Federal Government, specifically the Presidency said that 83 were ‘on their way’ to join the 21 released ‘soon’.
“We await official confirmation from the Federal Government and a release of their names. We, as usual shall go to work to confirm the news to verify its authenticity, and communicate same to the public.
“Our hopes and expectations are high as we look forward to this news being true and confirmed.”