By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos and Paul Obi in Abuja
Christians in the northern part of Nigeria, under the umbrella of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), have hailed the federal government, International Red Cross and the Swiss Government on the release of the first batch of 21 Chibok school girls from the captivity of Boko Haram last week in Borno State, attributing their freedom to intensified prayers of the faithful.
Also, the President of the CAN, Rev Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, yesterday applauded the federal government for the breakthrough recorded by securing 21 of the girls released from the captivity.
Speaking on the release, Ayokunle, in a statement issued and signed by his spokesman, Bayo Oladeji, described the release as a great feat and pleasant needed to appease some of families of the kidnapped girls.
According to the statement, “It is one of the best news we have ever received this year from the government as a nation. Let the government be aware that CAN is with them in prayer in getting the rest of the girls released and that they should leave no stone unturned in getting the rest that are still alive released,” he said.
“The leadership of CAN also rejoices with the parents of the released girls and prays that the rest of the parents would also have their children returned to them very soon.
“CAN rejoices with the parents of the released girls and we are still praying that the parents of the remaining girls would soon be reunited with their own very soon in Jesus name.”
The Chairman of CAN in the northern states, Rev Yakubu Pam, in a statement, said however, government and other relevant bodies must go on with more negotiations for the release of the remaining girls, adding that all hands must be on deck to ensure this kind of incident never happens again in any part of the North and other states in the country.
He said the rescued girls deserve serious medical attention, counseling and good dieting in order to recover fast from what they have gone through in the hands of their abductors, adding that they have to be assisted by the government and other relevant agencies that could assist them to get back to their normal lives and further their education.
Pam urged the northern governors to give serious attention to the education of the girl-child in order to bring northern girls at par with their southern counterparts in the area of access to quality education in the country.
While commending the resilience of the Chibok girls parents, he also used the occasion to call for more religious tolerance in the North, saying: “We are all equal before God.”
Meanwhile, following the release of 21 of the abducted Chibok girls, the Global Excellence Foundation (GEF) yesterday urged the federal government not to be complacent, instead, it should build on the current success in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency and ensure that every Nigerian held captive by the terrorist group is freed.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, the Country Director of GEF, Professor Ola Yemi, said: “There are people who are still held by the Boko Haram sect not known to the public because they do not enjoy the kind of media attention the Chibok girls do.”
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari on his disposition to fulfill the specific campaign promise of securing the release of the girls who were abducted in their school, Yemi reserved special praise for the gallantry of the Nigerian military.
He said: “We however want to appeal to the military to remain focused on neutralising the threat posed by unrepentant Boko Haram terrorists-those who have refused to be part of the ongoing talks with the government. The ongoing negotiations must not be allowed to become a cover for those who are patently evil to regroup while we are rejoicing at the release of the captive girls.
“The reality is that the insurgency is not over until the last of the hardened terrorists have given up their weapons. Our challenge therefore is for the military to remain focused as victory is not secured until all is over.”
According to Yemi, “The military must, under the current development, reassess its promise to rescue the last person held hostage by the terrorists because there are people still held by the sect who are not known to the public because they do not enjoy the kind of media attention around the released girls.
“This will be consistent with the more than 5,000 persons which the troops have freed from Boko Haram’s captivity.”
He however, frowned at the distraction the interview by the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has generated.
Yemi stated: “We want to appeal to the wife of the president, Aisha, to galvanise women support for her husband.
“Her recent interview in which she alluded to withdrawing support for President Buhari in 2019 is a distraction that is not needed at this moment.
“The hectic fallout from her interview diminished the joy of the girls’ release.”