Atiku, Bello, Fayose Welcome Release of Schoolgirls

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Our correspondents

Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello and his counterpart in Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose have welcomed the release of some of the schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram wednesday morning four weeks after they were kidnapped from their school in Dapchi, Yobe State.

In a statement issued by his media office in Abuja yesterday, Atiku said he was gladdened by the return of the girls, and expressed joy that some families who had been heartbroken would now have the tears wiped away from their faces, as well as other Nigerians who were distressed by their abduction.

“This is a moment of joy for all of us as a country. We may not all be in Dapchi at the moment, but we are all celebrating with the families, the community and the entire Yobe State,” he stated.

Atiku, however, noted that the grief of the parents whose daughters weren’t returned would probably take on a new and more tormenting dimension, as they continue to wait and pray for their safe return.
According to him, “May God continue to strengthen and give them hope.”

The former vice president believes “that while the events are fresh in our heads, a call for a more permanent solution to the problem of kidnapping of girls from schools should be found.”

He proposed several ideas including the immediate reassignment of 150,000 Nigerian police personnel to secure schools in volatile areas of the Northeast. “In addition, the government should look at redesigning schools to make them more secure from attack, including the addition of safe rooms.

“We cannot continue to allow our daughters to be used as instruments of negotiation, subject to capture and release at the whim of any group,” he said.

Atiku said: “For the sake of our youths who embody the best of our tomorrow, we must confront this Frankenstein monster. Working together as a country, we can and must bring an end to this. Not a day must be wasted in finding solutions to these anomalies. We must make it safe so that our girls and women in every part of the country can study and flourish in peace.”

Also, Bello while reacting to the release of the girls, said it was “a cheering news to their parents and Nigerians as a whole.”

Bello in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Jibrin Ndace, said the release of the girls after more than 30 days in incarceration was a testimony to the “pro-active measures taken by President Muhammadu Buhari,” adding that “the release of the girls wouldn’t have been possible without the president’s positive disposition to ensuring that the lives and property of all Nigerians are safe at all times

“The release of the abducted school girls also clearly demonstrated President Buhari’s unwavering commitment to freeing them and other innocent children from the cruel hands of terrorists and reuniting them with their families.
“The release of the Dapchi girls is a clear indication of President Buhari’s commitment to security of lives and property in Nigeria.”

Governor Bello also appreciated the Yobe State Government and all the stakeholders who facilitated the negotiations and final release of the girls and pleaded that similar efforts should be put into rescuing the remaining girls and the Chibok schoolgirls still being held.

He commended “the gallant armed forces and other security agencies” for the sustained battle against insurgents in the country.

On his part, Fayose congratulated parents of the abducted Dapchi girls that were released yesterday and sympathised with parents of five of the girls that reportedly died in the kidnappers’ den.
The governor described the abduction of the girls as an indictment on the federal government and their release as “drama scripted by the government and its agents to swindle Nigerians.”
Fayose, while reacting to the release of the abducted school girls, said: “This appears like an arranged abduction and an arranged release, but we thank God that the innocent girls have returned home and we condole with parents of those that died.”

In a statement issued wednesday, by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor said it was strange that the girls could be brought back to Dapchi by their abductors without the security agents knowing when they were returned and who returned them.
He said: “Curiously, the same spirit who made sure that all military checkpoints in Dapchi and other surrounding towns were removed to pave the way for abduction of the girls also made sure that the girls were returned without any security agent seeing them.

“One can only be hopeful that the real script writers behind this drama will be exposed one day.
“Nigerians should recall that the Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam, said the military checkpoints were withdrawn from Dapchi and other communities a few days before the abduction of the 110 girls.
This was also corroborated by the Amnesty International in its report that was published in the newspapers yesterday.

“Specifically, Amnesty International said that security forces failed to act on advance warnings that a convoy of Boko Haram fighters was heading to Dapchi town and that between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm on February 19, 2018, calls were made to tell the security services that the Boko Haram insurgents were in the Dapchi area.

“No doubt, withdrawal of military check-points from Dapchi and other communities, few days before the 110 students were abducted and failure of the security forces to act on advance warnings exposed the conspiracy of the federal government and its agents in the abduction of the school girls and other dastardly acts of the insurgents.

“Interestingly, no one was questioned up till now despite conflicting claims by the army and police as well as the damning report by the Amnesty International hat between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm on February 19, 2018, calls were made to tell the security services that the Boko Haram insurgents were in the Dapchi area.”

Amnesty Urges FG to Ensure Dapchi Schoolgirls’ Welfare

Amnesty International wednesday said the federal government should ensure that Dapchi schoolgirls who regained their freedom from Boko Haram’s captivity “have access to comprehensive support, including confidential counselling and medical care.”

The international watchdog however, lamented that despite this positive development, four girls from Dapchi “are still being held by Boko Haram.”

The movement made the call in a statement its Media Manager, Mr. Isa Sanusi, issued yesterday, noting that this “is a day of huge relief for the abducted girls who have been returned.”

The statement said Boko Haram “must immediately release these girls and all other abductees including some of the Chibok girls – and end the spate of abductions of civilians which amount to war crimes.”

Specifically, it noted that the 101 released girls “are currently being held in the custody of the governments,” which it claimed, would further prolong their ordeal.

It added that the authorities “must immediately release them, and ensure that they are able to return to their families or be provided with an alternative safe option if they so-choose.”

According to the statement, the authorities must also ensure the girls have access to comprehensive support, including confidential counselling and medical care.

It therefore, asked the federal government “to investigate the security failures that lead to the abduction – a fact highlighted by the tragic news that five of the schoolgirls died in captivity.”

The statement said it was absolutely “to investigate the security failures that lead to the abduction. The Dapchi abduction must be the catalyst for the government to ensure adequate protection of all schools in northeast Nigeria so that this can never happen again.

“As a first step towards meeting its responsibility of protecting civilians from Boko Haram attacks, the results of the two investigations into the Chibokgirls’ abduction in 2014 must be made public.”

Release Hope for Other Captives, Says NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has described the release of some of the recently abducted Dapchi girls from Yobe State as a great relief to the country and a reassuring signal for the rescue of others still in captivity, including the Chibok girls.

The acting Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mrs. Oti Ovrawah, stated this while reacting to the reported release of the girls in Abuja. She added that “this traumatic serial abduction is a threat to among others, the right to life and right to education of the girl child in Nigeria.”

In a statement by the Head, Media Relations, NHRC, Fatimah Mohammad, the acting Executive Secretary however, called on the security services to take additional measures to protect schools and educational infrastructures particularly, in the Northeast.

While appealing to the authorities concerned to speed up the release of the remaining Dapchi school girl including those of Chibok who have been in captivity since 2014, Ovrawah said the country’s security agencies cannot afford to fail its citizens as they are constitutionally mandated to protect live and property.
She therefore urged the military and other security agencies as well as relevant stakeholders to work in synergy to ensure maximum security for all.