By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met with the 21 released Chibok Secondary School Girls and their parents at the State House, Aso Rock.
The girls were handed over to the president by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in the presence of their parents and leaders of the Chibok community.
Buhari told the girls that their days of captivity were over and that they would now experience the best the world could offer them.
The president acknowledged the efforts of security and other international agencies but failed to mention the ‘Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group, a pressure group headed by an ex-minister Oby Ezekwesili that had sustained the campaign to get the girls freed.
The president said the girls’ release followed a series of negotiations between government and the Boko Haram group.
He said the negotiation was “brokered by our friends both local and International.”
Buhari said his government had been working towards the safe release of the girls since May 29, 2015, when he came into office.
He said: “The Nigerian DSS, military and other security agencies have spared no effort to secure our girls. These 21 girls are the manifestation of our doggedness and commitments to the release and return of the Chibok girls.”
While joining their parents to rejoice and praise God Almighty for the girls’ release, the president said: “We shall redouble efforts to ensure that we fulfill our pledge of bringing the remaining girls back home.”
He said credible first step had been taken and that government would sustain the effort until all the remaining girls return safely
Buhari said: “These 21 girls will be given adequate and comprehensive medical, nutritional and psychological care and support. The federal government will rehabilitate them, and ensure that their reintegration back to the society is done as quickly as possible.
“Aside from rescuing them, we are assuming the responsibility for their personal, educational and professional goals and ambitions in life. Obviously, it is not late for the girls to go back to school and continue the pursuit of their studies.
“These dear daughters of ours have seen the worst that the world has to offer. It is now time for them to experience the best that the world can do for them. The government and all Nigerians must encourage them to achieve their desired ambitions.
“My dear children. This is a happy moment for me and for all Nigerians. I welcome you back to freedom. It is a moment your parents, the nation and the international community have been eagerly waiting for, since your abduction on 14th April 2014.”
The president recalled the night of April 14, 2014, when 276 young female Nigerian students were abducted from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram.
While 57 of the kidnapped school girls were able to escape, leaving 219 in captivity. One of the abducted girls, Amina Ali, was found in May 2016.
Earlier, the Minister for Women Affairs, Hajia Aisha Al-hassan, had told the president that the 21 released girls were looking so haggard when they were released but were rehabilitated and polished by her ministry before the presentation.
The Chairman of Chibok Local Government Area, Ya’aga Yarakuwa, who spoke on behalf of the girls’ parents, thanked the president for his efforts to recover the abducted girls.
He, however, called on the government to bolster security in his area saying a community was raided by the insurgents last Tuesday.
Rebecca Malu, who spoke on behalf of the 21 girls, equally thanked the president for ensuring their release.
According to her, they had lost hope that they would ever regain freedom but she thanked God that they eventually regained freedom.