President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday that all hope is not yet lost on the possible return of the remaining 112 Chibok girls from Boko Haram captivity.
Buhari assured the girls’ parents that he has not forgotten them.
It is exactly five years today that Boko Haram terrorists stormed the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, seized about 276 of them.
About 60 girls managed to escape in the melee following their abduction while Buhari Administration secured the release of 107.
About 100 are still with the sect.
But Buhari speaking on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the abduction yesterday said government was still working on getting the girls and Leah Sharibu back home.
Leah and about 110 other students of Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School, Dapchi, Bursari local government area of Yobe State were abducted on the night of February 19, 2018.
But while all the other girls were released almost immediately, the terrorists have held on to Leah because she refused to renounce Christianity her faith.
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said Leah’s return was being hindered by fear on the part of her abductors.
His words: “President Muhammadu Buhari would like to remind the parents of the school girls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State that he has still not forgotten their daughters who were kidnapped from their dormitory five years ago (April 14, 2014).
“He promised the parents when he met them, at the beginning of his first term as president, that he would bring their daughters home.
“He is aware that this promise he made is the main reason the people of Chibok voted overwhelmingly for him in the February elections, and although his government has so far succeeded in bringing back 107 of the girls, the President will not rest until the remaining are reunited with their families.
“President Buhari assures the parents that his administration is still on the matter.
“Diverse efforts are being intensified to secure the release of the Chibok Girls, along with all hostages in Boko Haram captivity, including Leah Sharibu who was kidnapped from her school, Science Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, 2018.
“On Leah Sharibu’s abduction, the interlocutors have reported encouraging progress so far.
“The report reaching us says her return to her family has unfortunately been hindered by the fear of the militants.
“They worry that heavy military presence in areas where they previously moved about freely could affect their safety after they return her to the government.
“At the same time, the military cannot jeopardise the security of the entire north-eastern region by halting their operations to accommodate Boko Haram’s fears.
“Leah Sharibu will be reunited with her family as soon as any conclusions are reached on a number of options being considered for her safe transportation.
“The success of the Nigerian military in subduing Boko Haram is evidenced by the large numbers of militants who have surrendered recently, especially in neighbouring Cameroon and Niger.
“A similar mass surrender of militants is expected to happen soon in Nigeria.
“While Nigerian military operations are ongoing, the government is also engaging with the militants but the talks have been affected by the factionalisation of Boko Haram – with one group adopting a hard line attitude and intensifying attacks on Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, and another group engaging with the government for peaceful resolution.
“President Buhari also uses this opportunity of the commemoration of the Chibok tragedy to commend the girls, now women, who have triumphed over it all.
“He sends special greetings to the 106 girls sponsored by the Nigerian government to continue their studies at the American University of Nigeria, Yola.
“He encourages them to stay focused on becoming women who will inspire girls in Nigeria and around the world to triumph over the daily battles they face in a world that is often unfair to the girl-child.
“President Buhari also extends his best wishes to Chibok girls in other schools in Nigeria and around the world.
“He sends special congratulations to Kauna Yaga Bitrus, who has excelled beyond expectations in her college in Maine, USA, and who is soon to receive a special ‘Against All Odds Award’ from her school.”