THE successful negotiation and release of 82 of the abducted Chibok school girls over the past weekend filled well-meaning Nigerians with joy and relief. It has rekindled the hope for the return of the remaining 113 victims.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who had the privilege of receiving them just before he flew out for his latest medical trip abroad, reiterated the determination of his administration to ensure the retrieval of the outstanding captives in line with his maiden speech in which he vowed that he would not consider the war against Boko Haram over until all the girls have been brought home.
Though the Federal Government admitted that some top commanders of the Islamic terrorist group were exchanged for the girls, its successful execution surprised many Nigerians and gives the indication that the government is beginning to learn the ropes not only in the asymmetrical warfare but also in the diplomacy that goes with cleaning up the accompanying mess.
With this latest batch in the safe custody of the Federal Government, this is not the time to bask in political triumphalism. Rather, it should fire our zeal to get the rest of the girls home as soon as possible, having raised the hope and expectations of their parents.
Given the political and international dimensions of the Chibok girl’s saga, we urge the Federal Government to fulfill Buhari’s promise to fully shoulder their rehabilitation and education.
There is a need for the security agencies to apply the full force of their professional capacity in exhaustively processing every one of them to make sure that those who might have been radicalised are not unwittingly let loose on innocent citizens.
It is also very important to ascertain the level of physical, mental and psychological damage each of them has been exposed to in their three-year ordeal with a view to fully rehabilitating them.
This is not a knee-jerk assignment. It is a job for painstaking professionals, and it will cost the nation a lot of money and close attention.
We are very gratified to note that the United Nations system, through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) has already pledged to offer “comprehensive psycho-social” support to the girls till they eventually rejoin their families and communities. We hope this will include community education to remove stigmatisation, as rejection could create unforeseeable consequences.
One of the greatest challenges ahead of the Federal and State Governments as well as communities is to redouble the effort to prevent future abductions. Terrorists have gained so much from the abduction of the Chibok girls, and the temptation to do it again will always be there.
Prevention is better than cure.