Boko Haram members willing to surrender their arms will be granted amnesty, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday.
The President made the offer while receiving 105 Dapchi secondary schoolgirls and two Dapchi Primary School pupils earlier abducted by the insurgent group at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The insurgents had invaded Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State on February 19 and abducted 111 girls.
Receiving the girls in Abuja two days after they were returned by the militant sect, Buhari said the Federal Government was ready to rehabilitate penitent members of the sect and reintegrate them into the society.
He said: “While further efforts are being made to secure the release of every abducted citizen in Nigeria, Government is ever ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard.
“We are ready to rehabilitate and integrate such repentant members into the larger society.
“This country has suffered enough of hostility. Government is, therefore, appealing to all to embrace peace for the overall development of our people and the country.”
Making a formal announcement of the return of the abducted girls, the President said: “I am delighted to formally announce to Nigerians and our International friends and partners this morning that 107 Dapchi students previously abducted have been unconditionally released by their abductors.
“This cheering and hearty development signifies our commitment to the security and wellbeing of all Nigerians.
“We are never in doubt about our focus and direction since the assumption of this Administration. Security, anti-corruption and revamping of our economy are the main focus of our government.
“You will recall that on the 14th of this month, I paid a visit to Yobe State during which I sympathised with the parents, families, government and people of the state for the tragic abduction of the students in Dapchi.
“I made a solemn pledge on my word of honour that this administration would do everything possible to ensure the unconditional release of the girls.
“I further tasked all the appropriate security agencies to safely bring back the girls.
“We also reached out to our contacts at home and abroad. We embarked on backchannel shuttles with a clear view to bring this tragedy to an end.
“We entered into negotiations solely to make sure that no single girl was hurt. This strategy paid off as the girls have been released without any incidents.”
Turning his attention to the rescued girls, the President assured them of their security and freedom to pursue their dreams as Nigerian citizens.
He said: “To the rescued students, we want to reassure you as our daughters that you will freely live and pursue your dreams in Nigeria of peace and order without fear of violence or molestation.
“While parents of the Dapchi girls rejoice because of their reunion with their children, I want to appeal to the Chibok community never to lose hope or to despair.
“We are determined as never before, to bring back our remaining Chibok daughters. This we must accomplish, and that will be soon by God’s grace.”
The President also warned politicians who play politics with security issues to desist from it, saying that government would no longer tolerate it.
He said: “May I also warn against those elements who have chosen to make political fortune of our citizens’ misfortune.
“Government would not tolerate any attempt by any person or group to trivialise or politicise security issues for politically motivated ends.
“Accordingly, security agencies would not hesitate to decisively deal with such unscrupulous characters.”
The President also warned security agencies against any laxity that could result in any form of abduction, saying that those involved in such laxity will be viewed seriously.
The President said: “Let me re-emphasise our administration’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and insurgency, and also call on all Nigerians to join in this task.
“The security services have since been directed to put in place further measures around all schools vulnerable to attacks to ensure the safety of our pupils/students and teachers and school workers.
“I have tasked all the security agencies to work to ensure that we do not witness any reoccurrence of these incidents. Security Chiefs have been warned in clear terms that any lapse on their parts will be viewed seriously.” he said
He thanked all Nigerians, who prayed and showed solidarity with families of the abducted students during the period of the abduction in spite of their political differences.
“This, undoubtedly, is the Nigerian spirit. We can and should sustain it beyond moments of sorrow.
“I remain thankful to the International Community and our friends who offered varying degrees of assistance during the backchannel communications.
“May I on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria extend our appreciation to the security agencies for their loyal and tireless efforts in making this day a reality.”
One of the pupils, Fatima Bashir, who spoke on behalf of the students, thanked God for saving their lives.
The 14-year-old JSS 3 pupil concluded her speech by saying “God bless you sir.”
Joy Peace is an author of Aeroberry website. She is young, beautiful, bright and intelligent.