President Muhammadu Buhari says his promise to ensure the release of Leah Sharibu and the remaining Chibok girls in captivity of Boko Haram remains valid and will be fulfilled.
The President renewed the pledge in a message by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, to mark the fifth anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls.
About 210 school girls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State were kidnapped on April 14, 2014, with 107 of them later released following successful negotiations between the Buhari administration and the abductors.
Buhari had promised the parents of the kidnapped girls when he met them at the beginning of his first term as president, that he would ensure their daughters returned home.
The President acknowledged that it was this promise that made the people of Chibok vote for him overwhelmingly in the February presidential election.
He said that though his government had so far succeeded in securing the release of 107 of the girls, ”it will not rest until the remaining are reunited with their families”.
The President assured the parents of the girls that his administration is still on the matter.
”Diverse efforts are being intensified to secure the release of the Chibok Girls, along with all hostages in Boko Haram captivity, including Leah Sharibu, who was kidnapped from her school – Science Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State, on Feb. 19, 2018.
”On Leah Sharibu’s abduction, the interlocutors have reported encouraging progress so far.
”The report reaching us says her return to her family has unfortunately been hindered by the fear of the militants.
”They worry that heavy military presence in areas where they previously moved about freely could affect their safety after they return her to the government.
”At the same time, the military cannot jeopardise the security of the entire north-eastern region by halting their operations to accommodate Boko Haram’s fears,” he added.
According to him, Leah Sharibu will be reunited with her family as soon as any conclusions are reached on a number of options being considered for her safe transportation.
“The success of the Nigerian military in subduing Boko Haram is evidenced by the large numbers of militants who have surrendered recently, especially in neighbouring Cameroon and Niger.
“A similar mass surrender of militants is expected to happen soon in Nigeria.
“While Nigerian military operations are ongoing, the government is also engaging with the militants but the talks have been affected by the factionalisation of Boko Haram – with one group adopting a hard line posture and intensifying attacks on Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad, and another group engaging with the government for peaceful resolution,” he said.
Buhari used the opportunity of the commemoration of the Chibok tragedy to commend the girls, now women, saying they had triumphed over it all.
He also saluted the 106 girls sponsored by the Nigerian government to continue their studies at the American University of Nigeria, Yola.
He encouraged them to stay focused on becoming women, who could inspire other girls in Nigeria and around the world to triumph over “the daily battles they face in a world that often unfair to the girl-child”.
The President also extended his best wishes to the Chibok girls in other schools in Nigeria and around the world.
He congratulated Yaga Bitrus, who has excelled beyond expectations in her college in Maine, USA, and who is soon to receive a special ‘Against All Odds Award’ from her school.