*Buhari deploys 3 Ministers to Yobe
*As Cabinet members express excitement
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA- MEMBERS of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, were excited before commencement of the weekly meeting at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, Wednesday over the news of the release of over 101 abducted school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State by Boko Haram.
In the euphoria of the excitement, President Muhammadu Buhari who presided over the FEC directed three ministers to go to Dapchi to assess the true situation of events and come with updates on the development.
The ministers dispatched by President Buhari were the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Khadijat Bukar Abba (Foreign Affairs, State) and Abdulrahman Dambazzau, Interior.
Briefing State House correspondents, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the abducted girls were released unconditionally in the early hours of Wednesday.
The Minister said the girls were released by Boko Haram without any condition attached to it, pointing out that the release did not cost the government anything.
Cabinet members who gathered ahead of the FEC, were seen clustering in small groups discussing the news of the release of the girls.
The release of the students came on the heels of the allegation by the Amnesty International (AI) that the federal government-controlled security agencies got advanced warning but failed to prevent the abduction of schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State
While fielding questions from journalists, Mohammed said the directive by President Buhari to all security agencies to do everything possible to secure the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls, who were abducted 19 Feb. 2018, had yielded fruits, with the confirmed release of the abducted students in the early hours of Wednesday.
He said the number of the freed girls would be updated after the remaining ones had been documented, especially because the girls were not handed over to anyone but dropped off in Dapchi.
He said, “The girls were released unconditionally, no money changed hands. The only had one condition, that they will return them to where they picked them. So in the early hours of today (yesterday), they did return the girls and most of them went to l 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 center and as at five minutes ago, I was told 91 girls and boy had been documented.”
When asked how came a boy among the released girls as the school they were abducted was a female school, the Minister said, “I can tell you that is authentic. Whether they pick the boy or not I can’t hazard any guess but don’t forget even in a girl school, which is a boarding school there will be parents, they 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 who dropped them and how they dropped, he responded, “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.”
Also asked how it came very easy, Mohammed also said, “Like I said in the statement released to you early, 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 there will be no violence nor confrontation. And don’t forget that the lives of this children are much more important to us than any cheap victory.”
Responding to the question on what government was doing to prevent a repeat of the ugly incident, he 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 US, Florida you saw how gunmen 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 is even efforts on parts of government to even merge some schools, schools that are far flung.”
On the rehabilitation plans for the girls, he said, “I speak to you now they are in General Hospital in Dapchi and the counsellors are there with them. Just as we did when we had the first set and second sent of release of the Chibok girls, they will be quarantined and psychologically be counseled before they go back to their schools. ”
Also responding to the question to the effect that one of the parents said his daughter was not released because she refused to renounce her faith, the Minister said, “You see, all we can tell is what is gotten from our sources in ground. As this things develop we will let you know.”
No roll call of dead girls yet
Also speaking to journalists, a member of the federal government delegation to Yobe State and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijat Bukar Abba, said there was no roll call of the dead ones contrary to the report that five of the abducted girls were dead.
She said, “I am very excited today. My name is Hon. Khadijah Bukar Abba Ibrahim, the minister representing Yobe State. I am exhilarated, I am 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 were dead, she said, “as far as I know now they are taking a role call, so we cannot ascertain how many have passed on or whatever. We will find out much later on what the casualties are.”
On her advise to parents as regards the girls going back to school, she said, “I will advise them to to continue sending their children to school. We as a government will just fortify the schools in order to make them safe for children to actually go and learn.”
Also speaking, the minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali who predicted that the girls will 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 given us and the output is showing now.”
On the negotiations that went in before the release, he 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.”
The Minister of Information had earlier in the day in a statement said 76 out of the 110 girls abducted were released, later he said the number increased to 96 and at the time of filing this report, he said the released girls were 101.