May 8, 2017

We swapped B-Haram suspects for 82 Chibok girls – FG

We swapped B-Haram suspects for 82 Chibok girls – FG

President Muhammadu Buhari (standing) speaking during a reception for the 82 Chibok girls. ABOVE RIGHT: A cross-section of the girls. BELOW RIGHT: Members of the BBOG jubilating yesterday.

By Henry Umoru, Victor Ahiuma-Young  Ben Agande,Kingsley Omonobi, Godwin Oritse, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Omeiza Ajayi & Ndahi Marama

•Five persons freed in exchange – Senator Sani
•Two girls injured, one has fracture on hand, another amputated
•Buhari receives girls

ABUJA — DETAILS of the high-wire negotiations and conciliation that dovetailed into freedom, weekend, for 82 of the abducted Chibok School girls emerged, yesterday.

President Muhammadu Buhari (standing) speaking during a reception for the 82 Chibok girls. ABOVE RIGHT: A cross-section of the girls. BELOW RIGHT: Members of the BBOG jubilating yesterday.

Apart from releasing some Boko Haram suspects, as confirmed by President Muhammadu Buhari and Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debts, Senator Shehu Sani, Vanguard gathered that some money was also spent to ease the process.

The release brings to 103 the number of Chibok girls so far freed, apart from those who escaped on their own since abduction on April 14, 2014.

The development, which elicited celebrations in Chibok community of Borno State, is generating commendation for President Buhari, whose Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, received the girls in Abuja, yesterday.

Among those who expressed joy and saluted the President for the feat were Senate President Bukola Saraki; House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State; All Progressives Congress, APC; Bring Back Our Girls group, BBOG; Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF; Geneva- based Industrial Global Union; and President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Mrs Laura Boldrini among others.

How we got them released – Buhari

President Buhari said government swapped the 82 Chibok girls for Boko Haram “suspects’’ in a statement by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu.

Although he did not provide the number or names of the Boko Haram suspects swapped for the girls, Mallam Shehu said the President was kept abreast of every negotiation and operation that led to the girls’ release.

“President Muhammadu Buhari expresses his deep gratitude to all who played a part in ensuring the success of this operation, as follows: Security agencies, the military, the Government of Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and local and international NGOs,” he said.

The statement said President Buhari was committed to ensuring the safe return of the Chibok girls, and all other Boko Haram captives.

President Buhari was received the girls at the Presidential Villa. Before then, the girls had been received at the airport by Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari.

Five persons freed in exchange – Sani

However, Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), said that security agencies secured the release of 82 Chibok girls in exchange for five persons believed to be Boko Haram prisoners.

Speaking with Vanguard, Senator  Sani, who noted that no price was too high for the release of the girls, said “the swap commanders are five, and not two as reported.’’

“The Chibok girls release will partially clear the dark cloud of moral guilt that hangs over the sky of our country. The negotiators never gave up, the negotiators will continue for the next set after the one secured are made public.

“It is credible that 82 girls have been released; all in good condition with the exception of one with fracture on the hand and one with crutches.”

Military sources confirmed the use of money and release of detained Boko Haram commanders  as bargaining chips and disclosed that the insurgents who had been reluctant in the negotiation with the Federal Government team had to give in, with support of the International Red Cross on seeing that  troops were closing in on their remaining hideouts inside Sambisa Forest.

Recalling the destruction of ‘Camp Zairo’ which was the former control base of the group, the source said, the mop-up operation being intensified on remaining hideouts in the vast forest in ‘Operation Deep Punch’, has put the terrorists group in great disadvantage.

“Sensing that time was almost up on them and coupled with the fact that they have lost almost all their armoury, logistics holding and most supply routes for food and other necessities, the remnants of the Commanders decided to cash in on the negotiation not only to have their commanders released but also to make brisk money with which they feel they can either re-launch themselves or move away into other climes.

When told that a faction of the terrorist group is believed to have released the Chibok girls, the source said it was the Shekau faction, noting that the Boko Haram leader’s faction had been seriously degraded and were looking for any means to remain relevant.

Asked if the commanders exchanged for the girls were released from detention centres in Maimalari cantonment, Makurdi or elsewhere, the source said some of them were moved from detention centres in the FCT and Borno State and that they were flown under cover by military aircraft to Banki town and handed over to the terrorist group in exchange for the girls.

Chibok community celebrates, lauds FG

Delighted members of the Chibok community in Borno saluted the Federal Government for securing the release of 82 girls and hoped that the remaining 113 girls will be freed.

A cross section of those interviewed by the News Agency of Nigeria  in Chibok, specifically commended President Buhari for the gesture.

“Sincerely speaking, I am overwhelmed, this is the kind of information that we have long waited for. We appreciate God first and appreciate the government, especially the Presidency, which championed the negotiations,” Mr Ayuba Alamson, a community leader said.

He expressed the hope that every other person in captivity of the insurgents will also be set free.

“We pray that this will lead to the release of the remaining girls and all the people that have been captured by the insurgents. Our prayer is all of them will be released,” Alamson said.

Alhaji Zanna Modu the District Head of Chibok corroborated the feeling, saying: “We want to commend all those individuals, organizations the Federal and the Borno State governments for their role in ensuring the release of the girls.’’

Elder Solomon Samuel, also a community leader, described the latest release of the girls as a big surprise. “Most people did not sleep, yesterday in Chibok. They were praying, praising God and some were even shedding tears of joy because of the news. I did not sleep until 1 a.m. because of the report on the release of the girls.

‘’Sincerely speaking, we cannot quantify the level of joy in the community. We pray that the next information we will get is that the remaining girls have been released. I want to call on all Boko Haram members that violent campaign will not help them. It is high time for them to embrace dialogue let them surrender and embrace dialogue so that peace will return,’’ he said.

BBOG lauds FG

The Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG, movement also commended President Buhari on the release of 82 of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

In a statement by its conveners,  Aisha Yesufu and Oby Ezekwesili, the BBOG described the release of the girls as a “heartwarming development” and  urged the Federal Government to see to the release of the remaining girls “and other abducted citizens of Nigeria.”

“We are exceedingly delighted by this good news that has been long awaited following last October when upon the release of our 21 ChibokGirls, our federal government promised that; another 83 was being negotiated to be released very soon.

“We commend Mr president, the federal government and all the other partners for this heartwarming development. We are also glad that the statement from the presidency makes a strong commitment to rescuing the remaining 113 of our ChibokGirls that are still captives of terrorists. We are eagerly looking forward to the official release of the names of the 82 girls in order to enable us as usual verify them against the #ChibokGirls list generated by the presidential Fact-finding committee on the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls (General Ibrahim Sabo Committee) report of 20 June 2014. Once we are able to do so, we shall communicate our findings to the public.”

APC,  ACF, Atiku commend Buhari

The All Progressives Congress, APC, said it received the news of the girls freedom Saturday’s release  with great joy and praised President Buhari for the unprecedented feat.

The APC particularly commended “President Muhammadu Buhari for his tenacity and dedication in ensuring the safe return of the Chibok girls who were abducted in 2014. This is further proof that we have a president who is working the talk. Nigerians will recall that last year, government secured the release of 20 girls,” it said in a statement by its Spokesperson, Bolaji Abdullahi.

APC also expressed its gratitude to all security organisations and international agencies that have played various roles to secure the release of the Chibok schoolgirls.

On his part, Abubakar in a statement said the girls’ freedom shows what Nigeria can achieve as a nation when we unite as one people around a common cause.

“Nigerians stood together as a people and purposed to free these girls,” he says. Despite the many setbacks, hurdles and periods of discouragement, the government, civil society and the citizens all stood together, and today we have this victory that we are enjoying as one people,” he said.

In like manner, the Arewa Consultative Forum, in a statement by its secretary, Muhammed Ibrahim Biu noted that though the period of negotiations for their release was painstaking and traumatic not only to the Government but the parents and Nigerians, the patience and prayers of Nigerians have yielded some positive results.

“ACF, therefore, urges the Government not to relent until all the girls in captivity are secured and reunited with their families. ‘The secured girls should also undergo proper medical, psychological treatments and de-radicalization process.”

Release of 82 Chibok girls, my administration’s second anniversary gift to Nigeria-Buhari

President  Buhari has said that the release of the 82 Chibok girls was his government’s second anniversary  gift to Nigeria.

The assertion was contained in his remarks at the reception of the girls in his official residence at the Presidential Villa, Abuja  Sunday  evening.

He also vowed to ensure the release of the remaining girls.

He said: “This is a pleasant 2nd anniversary gift to the people of Nigeria.

“I cannot express in a few words how happy I am to welcome our dear girls back to freedom.

“On behalf of all Nigerians, I will like to share my joy with you, your parents, your relatives, friends and Government of Borno State on regaining your freedom.

“The Federal Government will like to commend the Security Agencies, the Red Cross, local authorities, local and foreign NGOs and all those who contributed in one way or another to secure the release of our Chibok Girls.

“Let me reassure Nigerians, especially relatives and friends of the remaining girls that the Federal Government will spare no effort to see that they and all other Nigerians who have been abducted safely regain their freedom.

“Finally, I am very pleased to have personally met you and let me assure you that the Presidency will personally supervise the performance of those entrusted with your welfare and commitments made by the Federal Government on your health, education, security and general well-being.

“No human being should go through this kind of ordeal. The security agencies and state governments should continue to provide special protection to educational institutions vulnerable to this kind of outrage especially in remote areas.

“This administration is resolutely determined to safeguard the security of all Nigerians at all times.

“Once again, I congratulate you and your parents on your safe return”.