- 101 girls and one boy released unconditionally – Lai Mohammed
- FG considering merging schools to secure students
- Deploys 3 ministers to trouble spot
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting currently were excited Wednesday as they stepped into the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa.
This is even as the government has said 101 girls and a boy were released unconditionally.
Also a delegation of three ministers – Minister of Culture and Information, Lai Mohammed; Minister of the Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau; and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijah Bukar Abba-Ibrahim, have been deployed to the troubled spot, in Dapchi, Yobe State.
Mohammed said the delegation will meet the girls in Maiduguri.
The first to show her excitement was Abba-Ibrahim, who announced openly on stepping into the Council Chambers, that she was the happiest person on earth.
She got handshakes and embrace from colleagues, who congratulated her on the good news.
The ministers were heard telling each other that it was the best news ever to start the day.
The meeting is presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who said the Christian prayer, and most ministers, including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Mallam, who said the opening Muslim prayer.
Abba-Ibrahim told State House Correspondents, “I’m very excited today. My name is Hon. Khadijah Bukar Abba Ibrahim, the minister representing Yobe State. I’m exhilarated, I’m happy, you just describe anything today, that is what I feel because the Dapchi Girls have been released. We are very, very happy. We have achieved what we had gone out to achieve and we thank the Almighty God for His mercies.”
On the news that some of the girls are dead, she said, “as far as I know, now they are taking a roll call, so we cannot ascertain how many have passed on or whatever. We will find out much later on what the casualties are.”
On the parents of the girls, the minister said, “I will advise them to continue sending their children to school. We as a government will fortify the schools in order to make them safe for children to actually go and learn.”
Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali, who predicted that the girls would be released a week ago, said, “Basically, I want to speak on the impression that people had that we cannot get the girls released. If you can remember the last interview I had with Channels Television, I said in two weeks, two months or less we are going to get the girls released, and this has happened.
“So this is as result of the efforts of Mr. President and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces for the support he has been giving to us and the output is showing now,” he said.
On the negotiations that went in before the release, Dan-Ali said, “I did say even if you are going for negotiations, if you are not doing so from the point of strength, then you cannot make it.”
Minister of Culture and Information Lai Mohammed, speaking more on the development, described the release of the girls as a thing of joy for all Nigerians.
Asked to speak to the allegation by one of the parents that his daughter was not released because she refused to renounce her faith, he said, “You see, all we can tell you is what we have gotten from our sources on ground, as this thing develops we will let you know.
“The girls were released unconditionally, no money changed hands. They only had one condition, that they will return them to where they picked them. So in the early hours of today, they did return the girls and most of them went to their parents homes.
“As of now I can confirm that 91 girls and one boy have been released. The event is developing. Many of the girls that were released were not dropped in one place. Some were dropped on the road and they went back naturally to their parents’ houses. They are now being asked to come and be documented at a centre and as at five minutes ago, I was told 91 girls and boy had been documented,” the Minister said.
Asked how come a boy was among those released when the girls were abducted from a girls school, Mohammed said, “I can tell you that is authentic. Whether they picked the boy or not, I can’t hazard any guess but don’t forget even in a girls school, which is a boarding school, there will be parents; there are teachers who can have children amongst them. But what I have been told is that 91 girls and one boy have been documented.”
On what government expects to achieve with the delegation to Dapchi, the government’s spokesman said, “Well, I think the issue of the delegation, until we clear with relevant security authorities, is not something I can talk about right now. We are constantly talking to those on ground. Don’t forget, as of now that area has become an operational area and so we have to take advice from the security operatives on what to do. What is important is that we must be able to brief you regularly as regards development and we are constantly in touch with authorities in Dapchi.”
On who dropped off the girls and where, Mohammed said, “The report we got was that one condition the insurgents gave was that they will be the ones to drop the girls and they dropped them in the early hours of this morning.”
On how come it was that easy to release the girls, he said, “Like I said in the statement released to you earlier, once violence and confrontation was ruled out and negotiation started, there was a deliberate pause on the part of the military. In other words, it was agreed that there will be no force, there will be no confrontation, that was why it was possible for them to drop the girls. It was part of the agreement that we will release the girls and there will be no violence, nor confrontation. And don’t forget that the lives of these children are much more important to us than any cheap victory.”
On what government is doing to prevent a repeat, the Information Minister said, “If you remember, immediately this thing happened, Mr. President actually directed the security agencies, especially the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, to man every school. But, you see, we must look at this thing in context. If you look at other countries, like the U.S., in Florida you saw how a gunman entered the school and killed about 17 pupils. Insurgency all over the world is a global issue and the government must always be on its toes.
“One of the things we have done today is that we have tried to secure the schools, and there are even efforts on the part of government to even merge some schools, schools that are far-flung.”
On the rehabilitation plans for the girls, Mohammed said, “As I speak to you now, they are in General Hospital in Dapchi, and I’m sure the counselors are there with them. Just as we did when we had the first set and second set of release of the Chibok Girls, they will be quarantined and be psychologically counseled before they go back to their schools.”
On if the girls will to meet the President, the Minister said, “I want to guess ‘yes’, but I cannot say so. Things are still just developing.”