*orders clampdown on those politicising abductions
*reckless comments by govt officials hindered rescue talks — DSS
*abductees returned with skin diseases, broken limbs
*six girls unaccounted for
By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu Buhari this afternoon offered amnesty and reintegration into the society of repentant Boko Haram terrorists even as he directed security agencies to deal with anyone trivialising terrorist abductions and military operations aimed at securing Nigerians.
He spoke at the Aso Rock Villa where he hosted 107 out of the 111 Dapchi students freed by Boko Haram insurgents who abducted them on February 19 and released them last Wednesday after a month in captivity.
There were one boy and two primary six pupils (11-year-old Hafsat Haruna and 13year-old Mala Maina Bukar)among the freed captives, while the rest were students of the Goverment Science and Technology Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State in Northeast Nigeria.
The remaining six Dapchi girls were declared “yet to be accounted for” by security chiefs who say dialogue on their rescue is still on-going.
While thanking all security agencies, friendly countries and institutions for their role in freeing the girls, Buhari extended an olive branch to the terrorists who lay down their arms, saying they would be pardoned and reintegrated into the society.
The President also warned that his government would not tolerate any attempt by Nigerians to trivialise or politicise the issues of the abductions and military efforts to free victims safely and ensure the end of the security challenges.
He declared that security agents have therefore been directed to deal decisively with “unscrupulous elements” found to engage in such trivialities.
Buhari enthused that his strategy to ensure none of the abductees were hurt during the efforts to free them, eventually paid off following the safe return home of most of them.
He pledged that efforts would be intensified to secure the release of the Chibok girls girls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014, and appealed to Chibok parents and community not to lose hope or despair as their children shall soon return home.
The President assured Nigerians that his adminstration was working to ensure that abductions like these never recur and that security agencies have been warned that a repeat will be viewed against them more seriously.
His words: “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.
“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 recurrence of these incidents. Security Chiefs have been warned in clear terms that any lapse on their parts will be viewed seriously.
“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 the 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. And this, we must accomplish. And that will be soon by Goda��s grace.
“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 show 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.
“May I also warn against those elements who have chosen to make political fortune of our citizensa�� misfortune. Government would not tolerate any attempt by any person or group to trivialize or politicize security issues for politically motivated ends. Accordingly, security agencies would not hesitate to decisively deal with such unscrupulous characters.
State House correspondents were not allowed to speak to the girls but one of them, 14 year-old Fatima Bashir of Junior Secondary School 3 class, who spoke on their behalf, thanked Buhari for his efforts in saving their lives and bringing them back home safely.
Giving an insight into the efforts to rescue the girls, Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, who spearheaded the back-channel negotiations, informed the President that uncoordinated comments by senior government officials incompetent to speak on the matter, complicated rescue operations.
He also highlighted other challenges to include the fictionalisation of the Boko Haram insurgents, their retaining control of enclaves in the Northeast and negative effects of social media exposing some classified aspects of ongoing operations.
Daura stressed that the only condition demanded by the terrorists to free the girls was a ceasefire on the part of Nigerian military to enable them return the girls without incidents, however the routes to follow, nature of transportation to be used and possible breach of ceasefire still also complicated the release operations.
According to him: “The exercise was arduous and quite challenging. The sensitivity of the operation and some uncertainties surrounding it, particularly routes to be used, nature of transportation, realization and concern that the girls were not kept at one place, issues of encountering military checkpoints within the theater, and indeed keeping the operation on strictly the “Principles of Need-to-Know” made the whole exercise more complicating.
Beyond the release of the abducted girls, our primary interest for engaging in the dialogue was informed by the permanent, possible cessation of hostilities; discussing the fate of the arrested insurgents and innocent Nigerian citizens being held hostage; possibility of granting amnesty to repentant insurgents.
“These presently seem problematic because the insurgents are factionalized while holding various spheres of influence in their guerrilla controlled enclaves. The negative impact of social media on otherwise classified operations and of course, some of the utterances of the government functionaries who were not competent to comment on the issues, posed challenges that almost marred the rescue efforts.”
He further disclosed that upon release, the girls were given psychological evaluation and counselling at DSS facility while four of them who were discovered to have broken limbs were sent for X-ray and further treatment.
“Almost all of them had one skin infection or the other having not taken bath for over a month. They have been medically examined, and those with ailments were treated.
“The girls, including four representatives of their School (the Principal and Vice-Principal) as well as their parents were brought into the medical facility as part of measures to relieve tension and anxiety. The presence of these representatives have further re-assured and stabilized the girls”, Daura said.
The spy chief then suggested to the President that efforts be sustained towards ensuring the release of all abducted persons in the North East Theatre of Operation; improving the strategic plan for the safety of schools in vulnerable locations, using all available national assets; improving on the coordination efforts amongst security agencies to avoid future incidents; and expanding the current dialogue towards conflict mitigation and resolution, with a view to getting an everlasting peace for the entire sub-region.
The Villa reception for the girls was attended by senior presidency officials, service chiefs, as well as the minister and some federal lawmakers from Yobe State.
*orders clampdown on those politicising abductions