It was a surreal feeling when news broke that the 110 Yobe girls kidnapped some 30 days earlier by Boko Haram terrorists from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, had been released. As the dust settled after the initial frenzy, 104 of the kidnapped girls were returned to the North-eastern town on wednesday morning by the Islamist sect, much to the delight and relief of their grieving parents and family members.
Confirming the return of the hostages, the Federal Government said 106 abducted persons, comprising 104 Dapchi schoolgirls, one other girl and a boy, were freed by the insurgents. But the return of the abducted girls and two other children raised concerns that Federal Government may yet again have paid millions of dollars for the return of what may be described as “priced” hostages. This follows suspicions that the country had paid a tidy sum for the freedom of 83 Chibok schoolgirls, who were abducted by the same terror sect four years ago. Although the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed who led the government delegation to Maiduguri immediately after the Dapchi girls were freed, denied that the government paid any ransom; nor did a prisoner swap take place.
However, reports suggest that five of the girls may have died from suffocation and stampede during the horrifying kidnap melee and subsequent movements around by their captors under horrendous conditions during captivity. Briefing newsmen in Maiduguri, Mohammed said all the 106 persons were freed unconditionally, contrary to reports that ransom was paid and some insurgents swapped for the release of the girls. “It is not true that we paid ransom for the release of the Dapchi girls, neither was there a prisoner swap to secure their release. What happened was that the abduction itself was a breach of the ceasefire talks between the insurgents and the government, hence it became a moral burden on the abductors’’.
The Information Minister stated further that the only condition given by abductors of the girls was that they would return the girls to where they were abducted.
We are excited for the release of the girls through whatever means. It is only people who do not understand what it takes to have your kids who you sent to school so they may better their future and help you when you in your old age stay in captivity. This is even more so in an environment that pays little attention to girl-child education. The trauma of living well in your house while your hapless kids are taken hostage by armed bandits is better imagined than experienced. So the government did well and we commend all the partners that helped to secure the freedom for the girls.
Although government says to prevent a repeat abduction, the security agencies had been directed to secure schools in the North-east region while there were also efforts by the government to merge some schools. However, we feel that the ultimate way to secure the schools is to bring the insurgency to an end. On this score, the government must pursue all possible angles including dialogue to bring this carnage and terrorism to a final end. The blood letting and fear must be banished. The peoples of the north east deserve to live in peace and pursue their legitimate business without let or hindrance.
We commend our military, which have lost some of their most loyal officers to this carnage. We praise activities of the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole led by Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas and urge them to be firm and proud. Efforts must be made to ensure that our military continue to enjoy high level care by the Nigerian people. The communities most vulnerable to attacks by the terrorists should never be left to their own fate under whatever guise. The Dapchi story should help in resolving the return of the remaining Chibok girls.