Worst days over for returnees, says President
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government yesterday adopted the 21 Chibok girls who were released by Boko Haram last Thursday. They were in captivity for over 900 days. The government will from now take care of all their needs.
President Muhammadu Buhari stated this when he was presented the girls by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a ceremony held in Aso Villa, Abuja. He said the girls’ worst days were gone.
They were abducted by the insurgents from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State in April, 2014. This is even as one of the returnees, Rebecca Malum, prayed for the safe and quick return of the remaining girls.
The President again assured that his administration will redouble efforts to secure the release of about 200 girls still being held by insurgents.The ceremony was witnessed by their parents, officials from their local government as well as their representatives in the National Assembly.
The girls were handed over to Osinbajo last Thursday after their release as the President was about to depart on a visit to Germany.
Buhari said the girls will be rehabilitated by the government and ensure that their reintegration back to the society was done quickly.
He said the government would assume full responsibility for their personal, educational and professional goals and ambitions in life. It will also ensure they continue the pursuit of their studies.
“The release of these 21 girls followed a series of negotiations between government and the Boko Haram, brokered by our friends both local and international. Since this administration assumed office, we have been working towards the safe release of the girls. The Department of State Services (DSS), military and other security agencies have spared no effort to secure our girls. These 21 girls are the manifestation of our doggedness and commitments to the release and return of the Chibok girls.
“While joining their parents to rejoice and praise the Almighty, we shall redouble efforts to ensure that we fulfill our pledge of bringing the remaining girls back home. Already, the credible first step has been taken and government will sustain the effort until all the remaining girls return safely.
Before handing over the girls to their parents, Osinbajo told the President how last Thursday was emotional for all present including himself, his wife, Dolapo and other top officials, as none was left without tears during the reception.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, described October 13 as a moment Nigerians have been eagerly waiting for with hope and prayers.
She said the girls came back weak and emaciated, adding that doctors immediately took over their medical care, while clothing, toiletries and under-garments among others, were supplied.
Chairman of Chibok Local Government, Yaga Yaragua, said the entire community would have been wiped out by Boko Haram, but for the coming of Buhari, which he described as timely.
He told the President that the community was still under security threat, disclosing that Butari, another community in Chibok, was attacked on Tuesday.
Speaking on behalf of the girls, Malum, who started by singing praises to God in Hausa, said they had lost hope of reuniting with their families, talkless Nigerians.
She called for continued prayers for the remaining girls still in Sambisa forest so that they too can return and reunite with them.
She thanked the President and all those involved in securing their release.
She said, “We are happy to be here, we didn’t know we will return alive, let’s continue to pray for the safe return of other girls from Sambisa forest”.
In attendance were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal Senate Leader Ali Ndume, Hon. Asabe Basil representing Chibok community in the House of Representatives, ministers and security chiefs, among others.