After days in Boko Haram custody, 104 pupils of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, GGSTC, in Dapchi, Yobe state were on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, released. The government put the figure of the girls abducted in the night of February 19, 2018, at 110.
The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, quoted the girls as saying that five of their schoolmates died on the day they were abducted.
The girls were taken to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, from where they were flown to Abuja last night.
The Federal Government said a total of 106 abducted persons, comprising 104 Dapchi schoolgirls, one other girl, and a boy were freed by the insurgents early on Wednesday.
Lai Mohammed, the minister of Information and Culture informed journalists in Maiduguri that all the 106 persons were freed unconditionally – contrary to reports in a section of the media that ransom was paid and that some insurgents were swapped for the freed persons.
‘’It is not true that we paid ransom for the release of the Dapchi girls, neither was there a prisoner swap to secure their release.
‘’What happened was that the abduction itself was a breach of the ceasefire talks between the insurgents and the government, hence it became a moral burden on the abductors. Any report that we paid ransom or engaged in prisoner swap is false,’’ he said.
The freed persons were handed over to the Federal Government by Rogers Nicholas, the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole.
They were handed over to the four-member Federal Government delegation at the Nigerian Air Force base in Maiduguri in the evening.
The delegation comprised Alhaji Mohammed; Minister of Interior Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau (retd.); Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hajia Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim and Hon. Goni Lawan Bukar, a member of the House of Representatives from Dapchi. The girls were flown to Abuja aboard a military transport plane.
Mohammed said: “The girls were released unconditionally; no money changed hands. They only gave one condition – that they would return them (the girls) to where they picked them from. So in the early hours of today (yesterday), they did return the girls and most of them went to their parents’ homes.”
When asked about the boy among those released, Mohammed said: “I can tell you that is authentic. Whether they picked the boy or not, I can’t hazard any guess, but don’t forget even in a girls’ school, which is a boarding school, there will be parents; there are teachers who can have children among them.
“The report we got is 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 Wednesday morning.
“Like I said in the statement released to you earlier, once violence and confrontation were 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, no confrontation. And don’t forget that the lives of these children are much more important to us than any cheap victory.”
On what the government is doing to prevent another abduction, Mohammed said: “If you remember, immediately this thing happened, Mr. President 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 U.S., 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 are even efforts on the part of government to even merge some schools, schools that are far flung.
On the girls, the minister said: “Just as we did when we had the first set and second set of released Chibok girls, they will be quarantined and be psychologically counseled before they go back to their schools.”
On whether the girls will likely meet Mr. President, he said “I want to guess ‘yes’, but I cannot say so. Things are still just developing.”
Abba Ibrahim said: “I’m very excited today. I’m exhilarated, I’m happy.
“We are very very happy. We have achieved what we had gone out to achieve and we thank the Almighty God for His mercy.”
She declined to comment on the reported death of some of the girls.
“As far as I know now, they are taking a roll call. So, we cannot ascertain how many have passed on, but we will find out later on what the casualties are.’’
The minister advised parents not to be discouraged by the incident, but to encourage their female children to embrace education.
“I will advise parents to continue sending their children to school.
“We as a government will fortify the schools to make sure that they are safe for the children to actually go and learn,’’ Mrs. Abba-Ibrahim said.
Dan-Ali 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 giving us and the output is showing now.
“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.”