- How we negotiated Dapchi girls release – DSS
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that henceforth, security agencies have his mandate to deal decisively with anyone trivialising terrorist abductions and military operations aimed at securing Nigerians. He also threatened to sack any security chief who fails in his duty henceforth.
He declared that security agents have been directed to deal decisively with “unscrupulous elements” found to engage in such trivialities.
He gave the warning at the Aso Rock Villa where he hosted 107 out of the 111 Dapchi students freed by Boko Haram insurgents who abducted them on February 19 and released them last Wednesday after a month in captivity.
There was one boy and two primary six pupils among the freed captives while the rest were students of the Government Science and Technology Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State in Northeast Nigeria.
Buhari has also warned security chiefs to sit up because any lapse henceforth will have severe consequences on their jobs.
The President affirmed that Boko Haram insurgents released the Dapchi school girls last Wednesday unconditionally after painstaking back channel negotiations.
He said government opted for negotiations because it did not want any of the captives to be hurt. While warning that his administration is determined to stamp out terrorism, Buhari offered amnesty and reintegration into the society for repentant Boko Haram terrorists.
The President who thanked all security agencies, friendly countries and institutions for their role in freeing the girls, enthused that his strategy to ensure none of the abductees was hurt during the efforts to free them, eventually paid off following the safe return of most of them.
He pledged that efforts would be intensified to secure the release of the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014, and appealed to Chibok parents and community not to lose hope or despair as their children shall soon return home.
The President assured Nigerians that his administration was working to ensure that abductions like these never recur and that security agencies have been warned that a repeat will be viewed against them more seriously.
Buhari said, “We entered into negotiations solely to make sure that no single girl was hurt. This strategy paid off as the girls have been released without any incident.
“The security services have since been directed to put in place further measures around all schools vulnerable to attacks to ensure the safety of our pupils/students and teachers and school workers.
“I have tasked all the security agencies to work to ensure that we do not witness any recurrence of these incidents. Security Chiefs have been warned in clear terms that any lapse on their parts will be viewed seriously.
“To the rescued students, we want to reassure you as our daughters, that you will freely live and pursue your dreams in Nigeria of peace and order, without fear of violence or molestation.
“While parents of the Dapchi girls rejoice because of the reunion with their children, I want to appeal to the Chibok Community never to lose hope or to despair. We are determined as never before, to bring back our remaining Chibok daughters. And this, we must accomplish. And that will be soon by God’s grace.
“While further efforts are being made to secure the release of every abducted citizen in Nigeria, Government is ever ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group, who show strong commitment in that regard. We are ready to rehabilitate and integrate such repentant members into the larger society.
“This country has suffered enough of hostility. Government is, therefore, appealing to all to embrace peace for the overall development of our people and the country.
“May I also warn against those elements who have chosen to make political fortune of our citizens’ misfortune. Government would not tolerate any attempt by any person or group to trivialize or politicize security issues for politically motivated ends. Accordingly, security agencies would not hesitate to decisively deal with such unscrupulous characters.
“Finally, I thank all Nigerians, who in spite of political differences, prayed and showed solidarity with families of the abducted students, during the period of the abduction.”
Fourteen year-old Fatima Bashir of Junior Secondary School 3 class, who spoke on their behalf, thanked Buhari for his efforts in saving their lives and bringing them back home safely.
Giving an insight into the efforts to rescue the girls, Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, lamented that uncoordinated comments by senior government officials incompetent to speak on the matter, complicated rescue operations.
He said four of the girls who were discovered to have broken legs were taken for x-tray at the DSS medical facility, while all of them were found to have one skin disease or the other due to not taking their bath for over one month.
He added that they have been medically examined, and those with ailments were treated, adding that the measures were to ensure that they are in good health.
Daura who presented 105 out of III female students said their freedom followed painstaking, back channel dialogue with their abductors.
He also presented two additional young Primary School pupils namely; Hafsat Haruna, 11 years old and Mala Maina Bukar, 13, saying that talks to free six of the Dapchi girls were still on-going.