- The Nigerian government has bid farewell to 106 Chibok girls after they underwent eight month rehabilitation
- The girls were released from the custody of Boko Haram in February
- The government also announced that the girls would soon resume formal education at the American University of Nigeria, Yola to pursue their dreams
There was outpour of emotions a forth night ago when the federal government bade farewell to 106 Chibok school girls after the completion of their rehabilitation programme at the National Centre for Women Development, Abuja.
New Telegraph reports that it was a show filled with glitz and glamour as the freed girls were re-united with their families and the larger community.
The ceremony was also a celebration of the realisation of their dreams as they would soon resume formal education at the American University of Nigeria, Yola.
The girls, who looked pale, haggard and pitiable when they were released from the custody of Boko Haram, now look refreshed and cheerful after just eight months of undergoing the special rehabilitation and reintegration programme organised by the federal ministry of women affairs and social development.
Minutes before the show started, the girls were driven to the event venue in two high capacity buses. As soon as they trooped into the hall, they began to dance cheerfully to the rhythm of songs rendered by an in house choir.
Each of them wore charming smile and glowing faces in their beautifully designed ankara outfits.
They interacted with their family members that came to grace the occasion before the main event started in earnest.
They were however under the close watch of some security personnel, who provided a buffer zone to ensure that they did not interact with journalists and shared no information with them on their release.
These young women were among the 276 girls kidnapped by Boko haram terrorists at the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in 2014. They have spent 8 months undergoing rehabilitation therapy.
The first batch of 21 girls were released by the terrorists in October 2016 following a series of negotiations with the Federal Government. In May this year, Boko Haram released a second batch of 82 girls, leaving about 113 girls in captivity.
Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Aisha Alhassan, said the girls were “fully recovered” and would be handed over to their parents at the end of the send forth ceremony.
Alhassan said the girls spent a number of months in government custody, undergoing psycho-social therapy after their traumatic experience in the hands of the terrorists.
According to her, "they have been fully rehabilitated and the government has promised to sponsor their further education.
“They are going to be in one of the best schools, the American University of Nigeria, where they will start a special foundation programme like a pre-degree. It’s a very happy day. When the girls came out, they were so traumatised that they did not even believe they were really free.”
Alhassan explained that after the completion of the special foundation, the girls would be at the liberty to choose any course of their choice for their degree programmes at the university.
According to her, the federal government has paid their school fees, noting that the girls will resume at the school in two weeks after reuniting with their parents and friends in Chibok town.
Alhassan said negotiations between the government and the terrorists were still ongoing to secure their release, adding that government has never relented since the release of 82 girls in May.
Alhassan expressed happiness toward the support received from various development partners during the rehabilitation programme for the girls.
The organisations include; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Women and Borno State Government.
She pointed out that while in the rehabilitation centre, the girls have learnt and acquired skills in various vocational trainings, such as decoration, bead making, knitting and soap making.
Items donated to the girls included; suitcase, duvet, toiletries, cloth and other school item. She stated that this will further help the girls to be self reliant in their various endeavours.
Part of the side talks making round that night was if the girls were actually preparing for Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) before their abduction since they cannot communicate in simple English.
One of the teachers from the Ministry of Education said the rehabilitation programme had really helped in improving the girl’s lifestyle compared to when they were released.
She added that the girls hated school when they were released but only liked church activities. She condemned insinuations that the girls were not going to school before they were abducted.
Chairman of Chibok Local Government Area (LGA) Honourable Yaga Yarakawa, said there were no Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Chibok, saying all those affected by the attacks resided in the villages.
Yarakawa said this at the send forth dinner. He lamented the alarming proliferation of arms and ammunition into the country, saying this shows that much still need to be achieved.
“The rate at which illegal arms penetrate Nigeria is not encouraging. The security situation needs revival, and we need to be on alert in the security situation.
“Boko Haram is in the villages and hitting targets just like here in Abuja with issue of kidnap and armed robbery.
"There is militancy in Niger Delta, Bakassi boys in the creeks, OPC, farmers and herdsmen clashes and all sorts of things which calls for security situation to be revived.”
He condemned stories making rounds that the abduction of the school girls from the Chibok community was a political tale, emphasising that no sane person would joke with the lives of others.
He also appealed to the government for the release of the remaining girls, saying Boko Haram members were also parents, who have wives and children, they should have pity on the girls and release them.
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com had previously reported that a top Boko Haram commander who co-led the operation that resulted in the abduction of about 276 girls in the town of Chibok on April 14, 2014, has surrendered to the Nigerian army.
Survivors of Boko Haram - on NAIJ.com TV