…Begs Boko Haram to lay down arms
…Promises to rehabilitate repentant insurgents
…Directs security agencies to deal with people politicizing abduction
…4 released Dapchi girls have broken limbs, 107 with skin diseases—DSS
…Accuses government officials of stalling negotiation efforts
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari declared yesterday that serious sanctions await any Security Chief who allows insurgents to abduct or kidnap school pupils in any part of the country, especially, in the North East.
President Buhari made the declaration while receiving 105 of the abducted girls of Government Girls Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe state who were released by the Boko Haram insurgents who abducted them. He also said that Nigerians especially the political class who make political capital with the abduction of pupils/students would be severely dealt with.
While appealing to the Boko Haram sect to lay down their arms and embrace peace, the president announced that the repentant ones among them would be granted unconditional amnesty.
Meanwhile, the Director General of Department of Security Services, DSS, has said that the released 105 abducted girls were all having skin diseases because of the poor sanitary situation they were subjected to within the one month period they were in captivity, while four of them have broken limbs.
The President who was accompanied by some members of his cabinet and security chiefs to receive the released abducted girls at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja expressed joy to announce the release of the girls.
He said, “I am delighted to formally announce to Nigerians this morning and our international friends and partners that One Hundred and Seven (107) Dapchi students previously abducted have been unconditionally released by their abductors.
“This cheering and hearty development signifies our commitment to the security and well being of all Nigerians. We are never in doubt about our focus and direction since the assumption of this administration. Security, anti-corruption and revamping of our economy are the main focus of our government.
“You will recall that on 14th of this month, I paid a visit to Yobe State during which I sympathized with the parents, families, Government and people of the State for the tragic abduction of the students in Dapchi. I made a solemn pledge on my word of honour that this administration would do everything possible to ensure the unconditional release of the girls.
“I further tasked all the appropriate security agencies to safely bring back the girls. We also reached out to our contacts at home and abroad. We embarked on backchannel shuttles with a clear view to bring to an end this tragedy.
Negotiations with Boko Haram
“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 incidents. Let me re-emphasize our administration’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and insurgency, and also call on all Nigerians, to join in this task. 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.
Warns security chiefs against lapses
“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.
Amnesty for repentant insurgents
“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 shows 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.
Warns politicians against uncomplimentary remarks over abduction
“May I also warn 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.
“This, undoubtedly, is the Nigerian spirit. We can and should sustain it beyond moments of sorrow. I remain thankful to the International Community and our friends who offered varying degrees of assistance during the backchannel communications.”
Presenting the 105 released girls and another two pupils from Dapchi to the President, the Director General of Department of State Services, DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura said that four of the released girls had broken limbs, while all the 105 had skin disease as a result of the poor sanitary condition they were subjected to by their abductors.
He also said that some government officials through their comments nearly marred the negotiation for the release of the abducted girls, adding that presently six out of the 111 abducted girls from the Dapchi school were unaccounted for.
His works: “May I formally and respectfully present to Mr President, the released Dapchi School girls. I wish to inform Mr. President that one hundred and five (105) out of one hundred and eleven (111) female students abducted from the Government Girls’ Science Technical College, Dapchi on February 19, 2018 were released two days ago (March 21, 2018) following painstaking, backchannel dialogue with their abductors.
“However, before you today Mr. President are two additional young Primary School pupils namely; Hafsat HARUNA, eleven years old, Primary Six pupil and Mala Maina BUKAR, thirteen (13) years old also, a Primary Six pupil.
“The remaining six (6) Dapchi girls are yet to be accounted for, and dialogue on these students is still on-going.”
Explaining how the negotiation process for the girls released was struck, Daura said after the presidential directive to security agencies to use peaceful options to ensure the timely and safe release of the girls, there was intense behind the scene dialogue spearheaded by the DSS.
He said the insurgents’ only condition was their demands for cessation of hostilities and temporary ceasefire to enable them return the girls at the point they picked them, adding that the insurgents demanded assurances that the government security forces would keep to the cessation of hostility agreement.
According to him, “The exercise was arduous and quite challenging. The sensitivity of the operation and some uncertainties surrounding it particularly routes to be used, nature of transportation, realization and concern that the girls were not kept at one place, issues of encountering military checkpoints within the theater and indeed keeping the operation on strictly the “Principles of Need-to-Know” made the whole exercise more complicating.”
He further stated that beyond the release of the abducted girls, the primary interest for engaging in the dialogue was informed by permanent, possible cessation of hostilities, discussing the fate of the arrested insurgents and innocent Nigerian citizens being held hostage, and the possibility of granting amnesty to repentant insurgents.
He said, “These presently seem problematic because the insurgents are factionalized while holding various spheres of influence in their guerrilla controlled enclaves. The negative impact of social media on otherwise classified operations and of course, some of the utterances of the government functionaries who were not competent to comment on the issues, posed challenges that almost marred the rescue efforts.
“However, despite these challenges, the Service has managed to successfully conclude the operation leading to the release of the abducted Dapchi School girls that are now before you, Mr. President.”
Speaking on the state of the girls health status, Daura said on their release, they were taken into the DSS medical facility and were put through programmes to give them mental stability, pointing out that about four were discovered to have broken limbs and were sent for X-ray.
“Almost all of them had one skin infection or the other having not taken their bath for over a month. They have been medically examined, and those with ailments were treated. The measures were to ensure that they were in good health.”
He suggested that “efforts should be sustained to ensure the release of all abducted persons in the North East Theatre of Operation, improve the strategic plan for the safety of schools in vulnerable locations, using all available national assets, improve on the coordination efforts amongst security agencies to avoid future incidents and expand the current dialogue towards conflict mitigation and resolution, with a view to getting an everlasting peace for the entire sub-region.”