Information and Culture minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, revealed today that the 21 Chibok girls released by Boko Haram were handed over to the Department of State Services at 5.30 a.m today
He did not disclose the location where the handing over was done, but said the girls were flown from there to Kaduna.
The release he said was brokered by a friendly European country and a “renowned international humanitarian organization”.
The 21 girls are now being awaited in Abuja, where the office of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has arranged a corps of medical experts to examine them.
“This is the most glaring manifestation to date of the unwavering commitment of Mr. President to secure the safe release of the girls and reunite them with their families. It is also a result of the round-the-clock efforts by the Administration to put a closure to the sad issue of the kidnap of the girls”, Mohammed said at a press conference at the Obasanjo Hall in Abuja.
” We expect the released girls to land in Abuja shortly. Ahead of their arrival, we have assembled a team of medical doctors, psychologists, social workers, trauma experts, etc to properly examine the girls, especially because they have been in captivity for so long. They will also be adequately debriefed. We have the list of the 21 girls but we are now contacting their parents as part of the necessary verification exercise. As soon as that is concluded, we will release the names to the public.”
Mohammed said the Buhari government has been working on the safe release of the girls and following all the leads available.
“In this instance, the moment 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 a friendly European country and a renowned international humanitarian organization. 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 the location of the release of the 21 girls. Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides.
“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 Chibok Girls.
” We want to thank all Nigerians for their support and for never losing confidence in the ability of Mr. President to secure the safe release of our Chibok Girls.”
President Buhari during a visit to New York called for assistance of the United Nations to get the girls released. He had earlier asked the insurgents to pick a foreign NGO of their choice to broker negotiations.
Boko Haram had always wanted a swap, to release the girls in exchange for some of their members in detention in Nigeria.
Alhaji Mohammed denied that a swap was done.
The 21 freed girls were among the 219 taken away by Boko Haram gunmen on 14 April 2014 from Chibok Girls secondary School.
Only one of them, Amina Ali Nkeki was accidentally found in May, this year.