President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the Nigerian government is ready to accept the “unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard”.
The president, who was speaking when he received the released Dapchi schoolgirls at the presidential villa in Abuja on Friday, also said efforts were being made to secure the release of every abducted citizen in Nigeria.
“We are ready to rehabilitate and integrate such repentant members into the larger society. This country has suffered enough of hostility,” he said.
Mr. Buhari also said his administration is “therefore appealing to all to embrace peace for the overall development of our people and the country”.
The president however warned against “those elements who have chosen to make political fortune of citizens’ misfortune”.
“Government would not tolerate any attempt by any person or group to trivialise or politicise security issues for politically motivated ends,” he said.
“Accordingly, security agencies would not hesitate to decisively deal with such unscrupulous characters,” he said.
Mr. Buhari also formally announced that “one hundred and seven (107) Dapchi students previously abducted have been unconditionally released by their abductors”.
The number given by the president appears in conflict with earlier figures released by the government.
The government had said out of the 110 abducted, 104 were released, while one remained in captivity. Five died during the abduction. A boy was also released, making the number of those freed 105.
The director general of the State Security Service, Lawal Daura, explained that the extra two girls where primary school pupils who were also abducted.
He also said six Dapchi girls were stil unaccounted for.
Mr. Buhari said “cheery and hearty” development signified his commitment to the security and wellbeing of all Nigerians.
“We are never in doubt about our focus and direction since the assumption of the administration.Security, anti-corruption and revamping of our economy are the main focus of our government,” he said.
Describing the process that led to the release of the girls, Mr. Buhari said following “solemn pledge” to the parents of the girls when he visited Yobe state on March 14, he said he “tasked all appropriate security agencies to safely bring back the girls”.
“We also reached out to our contacts at home and abroad. We embarked on back channel shuttles with a clear view to bring to an end the tragedy.
“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,” he said.
The president said security services had since been directed to put in place further measures around all schools vulnerable to attacks to ensure the safety of pupils/students and teachers and school workers.
“I have tasked all the security agencies to work to ensure that we do not witness any reoccurrence of these incidents,” he said.
“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,” he said.
Assurances to Parents of Chibok Girls
Mr. Buhari also stated that while the parents of the Dapchi girls rejoice because of the reunion with their children, the parents of school girls kidnapped in April 2014 in another school in Chibok, Borno state should not lose hope.
While the #Dapchigirls are believed to have been kidnapped by a faction of Boko Haram led by Al-Barnawi, the son of the late founder of the sect, Chibok girls were abducted by a faction led by Abubakar Shekau.
“I want to appeal to the Chibok community never to lose hope or 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 God’s grace,” he said.
Mr. Buhari also thanked Nigerians, who, he said, “in spite of political differences, prayed and showed solidarity with families of the abducted students, during the period of the abduction.
“This undoubtedly is the Nigerian spirit. We can and should sustain it beyond moments of sorrow,” he said.
One of the the released girls, Fatima Bashir, who spoke earlier, thanked the president for making it possible for them to be released.