Addressing the girls at the Presidential Villa, President Buhari acknowledged the hard times the girls faced throughout their period in captivity.
He said it was a happy moment for him, Nigerians and the parents of the girls taken from their school’s dormitory in Chibok, a community in Borno State on April 14, 2014.
“My dear children. This is a happy moment for me and for all Nigerians. I welcome you back to freedom. It is a moment your parents, the Nation and the International Community have been eagerly waiting for, since your abduction on 14th April 2014.
“We must from the onset, thank Almighty God for this day that 21 of the Chibok girls have again breathed the air of freedom and are reunited with their parents.
“We are equally prayerful, that God in his infinite mercies and benevolence, will see to it that the girls remaining in captivity will be freed and returned to us soonest,” President Buhari stated.
On that night, 276 young female Nigerian students were abducted from the Government Secondary School in Chibok by Boko Haram.
Fortunately, 57 of the kidnapped school girls were able to escape, leaving 219 in captivity.
The abduction triggered global protests, popularising a slogan – Bring Back Our Girls.
However, in May 2016, glimpse of hope of the rescue rekindled when one of the abducted girls, Amina Ali, was found.
On Thursday, October 13, 21 of the girls were released, a development that has been described as a surprise.
A happy President Buhari said that the release of these 21 girls followed series of negotiations between Government and the Boko Haram group, brokered by friends of the Nigerian government, both local and International.
He said: “Since this Administration assumed office, we have been working towards the safe release of the girls.
“The Nigerian DSS, Military and other Security Agencies have spared no effort to secure our girls. These 21 girls are the manifestation of our doggedness and commitments to the release and return of the Chibok girls.
“While joining their parents to rejoice and praise the Almighty, we shall redouble efforts to ensure that we fulfill 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 pledged that the 21 girls would be given adequate and comprehensive medical, nutritional and psychological care and support.
“The Federal Government will rehabilitate them, and ensure that their reintegration back to 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 Federal Government appreciates the patience and understanding of the parents of all the abducted Chibok girls. We equally thank Nigerians and the International Community for their support and prayers, and for never losing confidence in our ability to secure the safe release of our girls,” he stated.
The president also congratulated the 21 released girls, their parents, the Chibok Community the security agencies and all Nigerians on a day he referred to as a day of delight and rejoicing.
On Sunday, a thanksgiving service was held for the girls where they also reunited with their parents.
Speaking at the church service held in Abuja, the Minister of Information Mr Lai Mohammed, announced that “the Federal Government is negotiating with Boko Haram for the release of the remaining Chibok Girls”.
It was an atmosphere of celebration, with the girls singing and dancing, thanking God for their release.
At a point, one of the girls took the microphone and sang thanksgiving songs and the others joined her in the merriment, serenading the environment with a feeling of joy and relief.
For over two years they have endured captivity in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists.
Their freedom last Thursday took the world by surprise.
One of the girls, Gloria Dame, who spoke on behalf of the group in Hausa, said they were grateful to be alive.
After her speech, the service continued, with a priest delivering words of encouragement to the girls.
In his sermon, Dr. Shiktra Kwali told the girls that as they start a new life in freedom, they should not allow the experience of the past to weigh them down.
He further urged them to remain steadfast in serving the Lord, who has not forsaken them even in captivity.