By Lordson Okpetu
Many questions have been trailing the release of the 21 Chibok girls abducted from their school dormitory over two years ago. Nigerians on social media have been expressing divergent views on the surprise release, some thought-provoking and others outrightly outrageous.
This prompted the Presidency Office on Digital Engagement (PODE) to issue a statement to address the most frequently asked questions on the Chibok girls release. Concise News has obtained the report and present it to Nigerians as follows:
— We ASOcial (@DigiCommsNG) October 14, 2016
1. Release or rescue
The girls were released by Boko Haram to the Department of State Services following negotiations brokered by the Swiss Government. Kindly note that the Red Cross was not involved in the negotiations; their role was limited to providing medical care at some point during the handover of the girls.
2. How many girls were released, and when?
21 of the girls were released, safely, to the DSS at 5:30am, Thursday October 13, 2016, and they were flown to Kaduna from the location of their release.
3. Where are the girls currently?
The 21 girls are being held in a secure medical facility in Abuja with access to a team of medical doctors, psychologists, social workers and trauma experts. Their physical and psychological well-being is and continues to be utmost priority to the federal government.
4. There are reports that several of the girls are nursing mothers. Is this true?
Those reports are false. Only one (1) of the 21 girls is a nursing mother, with a child under age of 2.
5. Was any ransom paid?
No ransom was paid. All reports suggesting that a ransom was paid in exchange for the girls are false and should be disregarded.
6. Were the girls swapped for Boko Haram fighters?
No. No Boko Haram fighter was swapped or released for the girls. All reports suggesting that a swap took place are false and should be disregarded.
Please note that the government has no reason to conceal a swap, if indeed it took place, considering that the president has repeatedly stated his readiness to swap fighters for the girls, if necessary.
But no swap took place. The release is the product of painstaking negotiations and the building of trust on both sides.
7. So how did the release happen?
The federal government has, since Buhari administration too office, been working on the safe release of the girls and following all leads available. In this instance, as soon as we had a credible lead, Mr. President gave the green light to the DSS to pursue it. We can confirm that the DSS pursued the lead in collaboration with the government of Switzerland. The DSS was supported by the military. As soon as the necessary confidence was built on both sides, the parties agreed on the date and location of the release of the 21 girls.
8. Have the girls’ family been contacted?
Yes, the parents and families of all the girls have been contacted and arrangements are already being made to re-unite them with the girls.
9. What’s the next step regarding the released girls?
They will be given appropriate and comprehensive medical and psychological care and support. The federal government will underwrite all of the care they will receive, as well as their educational ambitions. The ultimate goal is to reunite them with their families, re-integrate them into the society, and support support them to achieve their personal, educational and professional goals and ambitions.
10. What about the close to 200 Chibok girls still being held by Boko Haram?
We see this as a credible first step in the eventual release of all the Chibok girls in captivity. It is also a major step in confidence-building between us as a government and the Boko Haram leadership, on the issue of the release of the Chibok girls.
11. What message does the federal government have for Nigerians?
We want to thank all Nigerians for their support and for never losing confidence in the ability and assurances of Mr President to secure the safe release of our Chibok girls. This is the most glaring manifestation to date of the unwavering commitment of Mr President to secure the safe release of the girls and re-unite them with their families. It is also a result of the round-the-clock efforts by the administration to bring closure to the issue of the kidnap of the girls.