Tears as freed 21 Chibok girls meet VP Osinbajo
There were strong indications on Thursday that the Federal Government freed some top Boko Haram commanders for the 21 Chibok girls, who were released by the insurgents at Banki, a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon.
The released girls were among the over 200 schoolgirls, who were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014.
Most of the girls wept profusely when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo met them on Thursday at the Abuja headquarters of the Department of State Services after the girls’ arrival in the Federal Capital Territory.
The 21 girls were released after 913 days in captivity.
A security source said five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the 21 Chibok girls.
The source stated, “Five top commanders of the Boko Haram were traded for the released Chibok girls.
“Those released are not among those earlier released by the military in the North-East on October 1, 2016. These ones are confirmed Boko Haram commanders, who have been in the custody of the DSS.”
The source, said the 21 girls were discovered by troops of the 21 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, which supervises the military units in Banki, Borno State, while they were filing out of the forest.
The source explained that the insurgents released the girls and left them to wander into an area where they could be sighted by people and security personnel in the area.
It was learnt that the Nigerian Air Force Mi 17 Hercules helicopters were deployed in the area to airlift them out of the operational area to freedom.
The helicopter “has capacity to airlift 15 people without difficulty.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government denied reports that it released some top terrorists to secure the release of the 21 Chibok schoolgirls.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, issued the disclaimer while responding to reporters’ questions during a press conference in Abuja on Thursday.
He said the Federal Government remained prepared to do everything within its powers to get the remaining girls out of captivity, stressing that “it is not true that there was a swap.”
“Whatever it takes to get the Boko Haram situation under control, we will do it. Dialogues, military operation, anything; there are still small girls under captivity. Mr. President wants to speak to the leadership (of the sect) who has credibility,” the minister said.
However, a hooded member of the Abubakar Shekau-led faction of the sect, who appeared in a video it posted on the internet on Thursday, painted a slightly different picture.
The sect member, who spoke in Hausa, said the only condition it gave for the release of the girls was for the Federal Government to release its members, who were being detained in Maiduguri, Lagos, Abuja and other Nigerian cities.
The armed Boko Haram member, who appeared with dozens of the girls in the background, accused the Federal Government of lying to the world about the mass abduction for the two years the girls had spent in captivity.
“We want you to tell the Federal Government to leave our brothers. Unless our brothers are released, these girls (pointing to the girls in the background) will not be released.
“We are asking the parents to tell the Federal Government to release our brothers, if not we will never release these girls you are seeing,” he said.
The unnamed sect member, who was dressed in military fatigues and had his face covered, claimed that government never knew the girls’ location but kept using the media to deceive the world about securing their release.
In another breath, he said air raids by the Nigerian military led to the deaths of a substantial number of the girls.
He described the condition of some of the surviving girls as pathetic.
The sect member announced that about 40 of the girls had been married off, but did not, however, say to whom.
He also appealed to sect members, whom he claimed were in detention centres in Lagos, Maiduguri, Abuja and elsewhere in Nigeria to remain patient and prayerful, saying “by Allah’s grace, we will get you out.”
The terrorist called out one of the girls, who gave her name as Maida Yakubu, and asked her a few questions to establish her identity. He then asked her to make a direct appeal to parents on behalf of the others.
Yakubu, who spoke in Hausa and the local Chibok dialect, said, “My parents be patient and plead with the Federal Government to release their brothers so that they can release us.”
She then switched to her local dialect, where she could be heard calling “airplanes and bombs” intermittently.
The sect member then warned President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian Military not to attempt to release the girls by force because they may not get them alive.