President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday at the State House, Abuja, hosted a formal reception and lunch for the 21 Chibok schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram terrorists.
The President was joined by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan and some other senior government officials.
The girls were accompanied by their parents and community leaders, including the Senator representing Chibok, Ali Ndume, and Chairman of Chibok Local Government Area, Ya’aga Yarkuwa to the event.
Conspicuously absent was co-founder of the #Bringbackourgirls movement, Oby Ezekwesili, who had drawn global attention to the urgent need to rescue the girls, but has apparently fallen out of favour with the Buhari administration.
In his remarks, Buhari announced that the Federal Government would adequately rehabilitate the girls and assume responsibility for their further education, personal and professional ambitions.
He 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 into 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.”
The President reiterated his joy at seeing to the release of the 21 girls out of the 219 believed to have been in the custody of the terrorists after 57 escaped on the night of the abduction - April 14, 2014 - from Chibok Secondary School, Borno State.
“We shall redouble efforts to ensure that we fulfil our pledge of bringing the remaining girls back home. Already, the credible first step has been taken and government will sustain the effort until all the remaining girls return safely,” he stated.
The Chairman of Chibok Local Government Area, Ya’aga Yarakuwa, thanked Buhari profusely for the return of the girls, declaring that without his assuming office as President, Chibok community would have been wiped off the map of Nigeria by Boko Haram insurgents.
He noted, however, that Chibok was not yet completely safe as a terrorist attack occurred in a nearby community just 24 hours earlier, and this continues to affect the subsistence farming which the people depend on for survival.
On behalf of the Chibok girls, one of them, Rebecca Malu, addressed the audience in passable English, starting with brief thanksgiving Christian songs in Hausa and English, joined by the rest of the girls.
Rebecca thanked God and the President, being the father of the nation for ensuring their release and prayed for the safe return of the remaining hostages.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo thereafter presented the girls to Buhari, with whom he posed for a group photograph.