Freed Chibok girls handed over to their parents

Parents of the 21 Chibok schoolgirls who were released on Thursday were on their way to   Abuja last night   after an all day journey from Borno State for a reunion with their long missing daughters.

Fathers and mothers are expected to set their eyes on their beloved ones for the first time in over two years in a re-union that is bound to be highly emotional.

The girls are currently in the custody of the Department of State Security (DSS) which, along with the Swiss Government and Maiduguri lawyer Mustapha Zanna, negotiated their release from Boko Haram.

A medical team has been attending to them since their return from custody.

All the girls have spoken with their parents on the phone since their arrival in Abuja.

But the Department of State Security Services (DSS) has restricted access to the girls.

Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume who is from Borno State visited the girls yesterday and broke down in tears on sighting them.

The girls consoled him.

The girls appeared far better than they were when they arrived in Abuja on Thursday.

There was evidence of joy all over them.

And they sang, praising God and thanking Ndume.

“Allah Ya kawo baba mu, mugode Allah”( God has brought our father, we praise the Almighty God) was the theme of their song.

A top source told The Nation that logistics delayed the parents/girls reunion.

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“Due to logistics, the 21 girls have not met with their parents. We need to guarantee their safety and make their trip comfortable.  But the parents are in transit (as at 8pm on Saturday) and by Sunday, they will reunite with their children,” the source said.

“So far, all the girls have spoken with their parents and relations on the phone. They are in touch and eager to meet with them.

“The DSS has however restricted access to the girls for strategic reasons. We do not want to make them vulnerable again since they are undergoing rehabilitation.”

Senate Leader Ndume was allowed to meet with the girls between 3pm and 4pm yesterday.

Another source said: “Upon sighting the girls, Ndume wept but the girls milled around consoling him. They were in high spirit.

Speaking with our correspondent last night, Ndume confirmed the audience with the girls.

He said: “I was with them for an hour and I observed that their recovery is rapid. They are looking forward to meeting their parents on Sunday (today).

“We thank the Federal Government for securing the release of these girls. With this development, there is bright light at the end of the tunnel.”

Responding to a question, Ndume said: “There was no sign that the girls were molested or forced to abandon Christianity in captivity.  Gloria, who is their leader led  the  Christian prayer session during my visit.  She offered the prayer in a moving manner and I said ‘you are qualified to be a pastor.’

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“They were in good spirit, the medical experts, psychologists and other social workers have done a good job. I am optimistic that they will recover faster.”

A member of the Chibok community who does not want to be named said last night that a thanksgiving service will be held for the safe return of the girls in an undisclosed church in Abuja today.

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters yesterday said the release of the girls has not caused disquiet in the military.

It also said the operation in the North-East against Boko Haram insurgents will continue.

The DHQ made the clarifications in a statement by the Acting Director Defence Information Brig.-Gen. Rabe Abubakar.

He said: “The Defence Headquarters attention has been drawn to an online and newspaper publication insinuating that there is a mixed feeling among Nigerian military ranks and files as a result of the recent release of some Chibok girls.

“The military wishes to state unequivocally that the Armed Forces will continue to work closely with all our sister security agencies to achieve more feat in this direction.

“The military also want to debunk the baseless and unfounded story that there is disquiet in the military over the condition of release of the girls.

“The Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies are one working together to finish the war on terror and other criminalities which can be done covertly or overtly.  The most important thing is achieving our strategic objective.

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“The DHQ has said before that negotiation with the terrorists or any other group rests purely on our respected political leaders.  The military operations to rid our land of terrorists continue.

“It is important to state that not all information is meant for public consumption due to processes which is purely political.  More so, the ongoing military operation is making unprecedented progress with the rescue of many captives held by the terrorists.  The general public should discountenance with this baseless and misleading story.

“While the Armed Forces hold the media veritable partner, it urges the media to be mindful and clarify with the military when reporting security and defence issues bothering on sensitive national matters of this nature.”

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