Some members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet have spoken on the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls.
The ministers spoke Wednesday with State House correspondents before the commencement of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council ( FEC) at the Presidential Villa Abuja.
Below is a transcript of what they said:
Minister of State ( Foreign Affairs)
I am very excited today. My name is Hon. Khadijah Bukar Abba Ibrahim, the Minister representing Yobe State. I am exhilarated, I’m happy. You just describe anything today, that is what I feel because the Dapchi girls have been released. We are very very happy. We have achieved what we had gone out to achieve and we thank the almighty God for His mercies.
Q: On the news that some of the girls are dead
“As far as I know now, they are taking a roll call, so we cannot ascertain how many have passed on or whatever. We will find out much later on what the casualties are.
Q: On her advice to parents as regards the girls going back to school
“I will advise them to to continue sending their children to school. We as a government will just fortify the schools in order to make them safe for children to actually go and learn.
Minister of Defence
The Minister of Defence who predicted that the girls will be released a week ago, said: “Basically, I want to speak on the impression that people had that we cannot get the girls released. If you can remember the last interview I had with Channels Television, I said in two weeks, two months or less we are going to get the girls released and this has happened.
“So this is as result of the efforts of Mr. President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces for the support he has been giving us and the output is showing now.
Q: On the negotiations that went in before the release
“I did say even if you are going for negotiations, if you are not doing so from the point of strength then you cannot make it.”
Information Minister, Lai Mohammed
Q: Are you aware that one of the parents said his daughter was not released because she refused to renounce her faith?
You see, all we can tell you is what is gotten from our sources on ground. As these things develop we will let you know.
The girls were released unconditionally, no money changed hands. They only had one condition, that they will return them to where they picked them. So in the early hours of today, they did return the girls and most of them went to their parents’ homes.
As of now, I can confirm that 91 girls and one boy have been released. The event is developing. Many of the girls that were released were not dropped in one place. Some where dropped on the road and they went back naturally to their parents’ houses. They are now being asked to come and be documented at a centre and as at five minutes ago, I was told 91 girls and boy had been documented.
Q: But the school is for girls how come a boy is among those released?
I can tell you that is authentic. Whether they picked the boy or not I can’t hazard any guess. But don’t forget even in a girl school, which is a boarding school, there will be parents, they are teachers who can have children amongst them. But what I have been told is that 91 girls and one boy have been documented.
Q: The government is sending a delegation to Dapchi, what do you hope to achieve?
Well, I think the issue of the delegation, until we clear with relevant security authorities, is not something I can talk about right now. We are constantly talking to those on ground. Don’t forget as of now, that area has become an operational area and so we have to take advise from the security operatives on what to do. What is important is that we must be able to brief you regularly as regards development and we are constantly in touch with authorities in Dapchi.
Q: On who dropped them and how were they drop
The report we got was that one condition the insurgents gave was that they will be the ones to drop the girls and they dropped them in the early hours of this morning.
Q: How did that become easy?
Like I said in the statement released to you early, once violence and confrontation was ruled out and negotiation started, there was a deliberate pause on the part of the military. In other words, it was agreed that there will be no force, there will be no confrontation, that was why it was possible for them to drop the girls. It was part of the agreement that we will release the girls, there will be no violence or confrontation. And don’t forget that the lives of these children are much more important to us than any cheap victory.
Q: On what government is doing to prevent a repeat?
If you remember, immediately this thing happened, Mr. President actually directed the security agencies, especially the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, to man every school. But you see, we must look at this thing in context. If you look at other countries like the US, (in) Florida, you saw how gunmen entered the school and killed about 17 pupils. Insurgency all over the world is a global issue and the government must always be on its toes.
One of the things we have done today is that we have tried to secure the schools and there is even efforts on parts of government to even merge some schools, schools that are far-flung.
Q: What are the rehabilitation plans for the girls?
As I speak to you now they are in General Hospital in Dapchi and I’m sure the counsellors are there with them. Just as we did when we had the first set and second set of release of the Chibok girls, they will be quarantined and psychologically be counseled before they go back to their schools.
Q: Are they likely to meet Mr. President?
I want to guess yes, but I cannot say so. Things are still just developing.