Members of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign group have again reconvened at the Unity Fountain in Abuja, this time, in addition to seeking the release of the abducted Chibok girls, they are pushing for soldiers’ welfare.
The co-convener of the group, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, told Channels Television that the focus of the third day gathering was to press for a better welfare for soldiers and officers of the Nigerian Army.
Dr. Ezekwesili explained that the group was appalled with the way soldiers at the war front were treated by the authorities.
She said Tuesday’s protest, apart from seeking the release of the remaining Chibok girls, would also focus on what she called the military project and welfare of the officers.
Recently, a video emerged where soldiers were seen protesting non-availability of water and ammunition needed to prosecute the war against Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast.
Several soldiers have been killed in counter-insurgency war in the northeast while some have been maimed.
Boko Haram terrorists had in 2014 April abducted over 200 girls from their school’s dormitory in Chibok.
Since their abduction, less than 70 of the girls have been rescued by the military.
The BBOG group has held series of protests to make the government heighten efforts to rescue the girls.
The spokesman for the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Sani Usman, confirmed the girl’s recovery on January 5.
He stated that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, during investigation of arrested suspected Boko Haram terrorists, discovered one of the abducted Chibok School girls, Rakiya Abubkar, with her six months old baby.
The rescued girls were brought to Chibok to spend the Christmas holiday for the first time since their abduction.
Their return brought excitement and hope to people of the community although only very close family members were allowed access to the girls, as heavily armed security operatives prevented passage to the home where they are being kept.
Speaking to Channels Television, grandmother to one of the rescued girls, Kyallu Ibrahim, expressed excitement over the return of her daughter.
“I never thought I’ll ever see my grandchild again, I thought she was dead. It was a nightmare when they took them away but we are glad she is finally back we are grateful to God and the government for bringing them back and we pray for the other girls that are yet to return.”
Families whose daughters are yet to return have mixed feelings even as those rescued are celebrating, they can only hope for their own wards would one day return.
Speaking on the insecurity in the region, a women group leader, Comfort Dunama, explained that every family in Chibok has either lost a child or relative in the April 2014 abduction of the girls.
This according to her, has made nearly 800 locals to become volunteer vigilantes which has paid off in securing the community according to local leaders.
Commander Chibok Vigilante Group, Apogu Gaji, said: “After the kidnap of the girls more people came to join us.
“In the past, we were not more than 50 but today we have up to 500 volunteers. We have engaged Boko Haram in battles, arrested some, killed some and we submit the arms we recover to the army.
“We also suffered casualties but we dealt with them thoroughly and as of now there is no Boko Haram camp around our villages neither do they use any route with their motorcycles. We don’t see them again and everyone feels safe these days,” Gaji stated.
Shettima, while promising to rebuild damaged infrastructure, stated that nothing is too much to do for the girls and their families, who have suffered a lot already.
Consoling parents whose daughters are yet to be rescued, he said all hands are on deck to ensure the return of all the girls.
“They have released 500 million Naira, I have not seen what they did in Government Secondary School Chibok. We shall go to the federal government, and the safe school initiative and the federal Ministry of Finance and demand what they did with the money.
“People should stop buying and selling with the name of Chibok, it is very unfortunate.
We shall also revoke the contract for the Damboa/ Chibok road and in the coming year, we are directing the Borno Road Maintenance Agency with the sum of 500 million naira to fix the road,” the governor stressed.
“We can confirm that 21 of the girls were released, safely, to us by 5.30 this Thursday morning and they were flown to Kaduna from the location of their release.
“This is the most glaring manifestation to date of the unwavering commitment of Mr President to secure the safe release of the girls and reunite them with their families.
“It is also a result of the round-the-clock efforts by the Administration to put a closure to the sad issue of the kidnap of the girls,” he stated.
‘Not A Swap’
After they were released there were speculations that their release was secured through a swap deal, but the Minister of Information also dismissed the claims.
He said that their release was based on confidence and not a swap arrangement with the terrorists group.
“This is not a swap. This was a release which was effected because over time, we succeeded in confidence building.
“This particular release is significant because it’s just a first step in what we believe will lead to the eventual release of all our girls in custody. It is significant also because we have been able to establish more than ever before a confidence in both the leadership of Boko Haram and Nigerians.
“I am not aware of any monetary transaction,” he said.
In fulfilment of a promise to rehabilitate the girls, after the celebration on Sunday, the girls were, however, not handed over to their parents. They are to remain with the government for some time for further medical assistance and counselling.