The Dapchi schoolgirls released last week by the Book Haram insurgents yesterday reunited with their families amidst celebrations by parents, friends and well-wishers in the town in Yobe State.
The girls who were released by the terrorists on Wednesday were earlier taken to Abuja where they met with President Muhammad u Buhari on Friday.
They were handed over to the state government by a federal government delegation led by Minister of State (Foreign Affairs), Khadijah Abba Ibrahim.
Yobe State governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, represented by the state commissioner for information, Alhaji Mala Musty, had commended President Buhari for securing the release of the girls.
It was celebration galore as the girls, parents, relations danced along the streets of the town to celebrate the girls’ safe return.
Some of the residents who spoke to NAN thanked the president for securing the release of their daughters.
They also appealed to him not to relent until he secures the release of the remaining girls still under the captivity of the insurgents.
A number of the parents said they would continue to allow their daughters to go to school in spite of the incident, but called for tightened security in all schools in the area.
…Their Release Gesture Of FG’s Goodwill – Lai Mohammed
Meanwhile, the federal government declared yesterday that the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls was an apparent gesture of goodwill, following relentless efforts by the government to find long-lasting solutions to the conflict.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this at a media briefing in Lagos said one of the factors that necessitated the release of the girls was President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to security agencies to do everything possible to bring them back unharmed.
“That dictated the method we adopted. Back-channel talks with our international friends as mediators, and the result was the release of the girls,” he added.
On how the insurgents were able to return the girls without attacking despite troops’ presence, the minister explained that unknown to many, the federal government has been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now.
He noted that the talks had earlier helped to secure the release of the Police officers’ wives and the University of Maiduguri lecturers who were also held captive by the Boko Haram insurgents.
He added that government was able to leverage on the wider talks when the Dapchi girls were abducted.
Mohammed continued: “As I said earlier, the insurgents decided to return the girls to where they picked them from as a goodwill gesture. All they demanded was a ceasefire that will grant them a safe corridor to drop the girls.
“This is not new. Even in larger war situations, safe corridors are usually created for humanitarian and other purposes. Consequently, a weeklong ceasefire was declared, starting from Monday, 19 March. That is why the insurgents were able to drop the girls.
“This counters the conspiracy theories being propounded in some quarters concerning why it was so easy for the insurgents to drop off the girls without being attacked by the military”.
Noting that there is no government that will not face tragedies, the minister pointed out that what makes the difference is how such tragedies are managed.
He further said that Buhari put this in perspective when he said the response of his administration was a marked departure from the attitude of the preceding administration in the aftermath of the kidnap of the 276 Chibok girls in 2014
He stated: “Whereas it took that administration 18 days to even acknowledge the kidnap of the girls, the current administration was responsive and was not in denial. No stone was left unturned to secure the release of the girls”.
Mohammed highlighted the measure taken by the federal government to secure the quick release of the girls, stressing that the president sent federal government delegation twice to Dapchi and Damaturu within four days to engage in fact-finding and to condole with the government and people of Yobe State and the families of the abducted girls.
He further stated that the president ordered the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take direct charge and brief him on a daily basis on the efforts to bring back the girls.
“The President ordered the re-strengthening of a Joint Operational Base involving relevant agencies and Services to coordinate the rescue mission. Consequently, the Service Commanders established a unified Command Centre in Maiduguri, and the Military also raised several rescue teams to comb the forests in the North East Theatre of Operation and the Nigerian Air Force maintained aerial surveillance of the area all through”, he stated.
In the same vein, he noted that the abduction ended about a month after it occurred, as most of the girls have been freed.
He, however, described as disgraceful and insensitive the reaction of the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the release of the schoolgirls, describing it as bad politics.
He warned that federal government would not tolerate any attempt by any person or group to trivialise or politicise security issues for politically motivated ends, noting that security agencies would not hesitate to decisively deal with such unscrupulous characters.
The minister explained that the PDP and its co-travelers do not understand that terrorism is a global problem. “A terror attack on any country is an attack on all countries”, the minister added.
He disclosed that the United Nations was among the first international organisations to condemn the abduction of the Dapchi girls and also among the first to welcome their release.
The minister then asked the PDP to tell what it knows about the abduction of the Dapchi girls, going by its statement that their abduction and release were stage-managed.
“The party made itself a laughing stock within and outside Nigeria with that statement. Don’t they know that our international friends are involved in the process that led to the release of the girls? Indeed, there should be a new criterion for withdrawing the registration of a party like the PDP, which has failed both as a ruling and an opposition party! If a party cannot rule and cannot be in opposition, what else can it do?” He queried.
He thanked all Nigerians for their support and prayers for their belief in the ability of the federal government to secure an early release of the girls, saying, “we will continue with the ongoing efforts to account for the remaining six Dapchi girls, and indeed to bring back our remaining Chibok girls”.
He said this Administration remains committed to the fight against terrorism and insurgency, even as he disclosed that security services have since been directed to put in place further measures around all schools vulnerable to attacks to ensure the safety of pupils, students and teachers and school workers.