Emotions flowed freely yesterday at a special church service organised in Abuja by the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), to thank God for the release of 21 of the abducted Chibok school girls who said they never anticipated their release.
This came as the Federal Government warned against unguarded comments, especially in the media, in order not to jeopardise the on-going talks for the release of the remaining girls.
The event, which took place at one of the facilities of the Department of State Security (DSS), also served as a reunion for the girls and their parents.
The spokesperson of the released girls, Miss Gloria Dame, who recalled their ordeal in captivity, thanked God and all those who made their safe release and reunion with their families possible.
Speaking in Hausa, Miss Dame prayed God to ensure the safe release of the other girls still in captivity.
“We never thought we will ever see this moment, but God has made it possible for us. I want to appeal to all of us to fast and pray for the safe release of those left in capativity,” she said.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who appealed to commentators and analysts to be cautious, disclosed that negotiations were ongoing for the release of even a larger batch of the girls.
There were reports that talks were on for the release of another set of about 80 of the girls.
“There are many reckless analysts and commentators who are not helping the situation. We still have many of our children in captivity. Therefore, we have to be careful with the kind of comments we make. We must not make comments that will make the release of these girls difficult or impossible,” Mohammed said.
Quoting from the Scriptures (Those who are with us are more than those who are with them), the minister said those who doubted the sincerity and commitment of the present administration to the safe release and reunion of the abducted Chibok girls with their parents were disappointed.
He appealed to the parents of the girls who are yet to be freed to continue to exercise patience.
“This is the beginning and we are very optimistic that very soon another batch, bigger than this, will be released.”
Chairman of the parents of the abducted Chibok school girls, Mr. Yakubu Nkeki re-echoed the minister’s plea and appealed to Nigerians to stop spreading rumours about the issue.
He debunked reports alleging that 18 of the 21 free girls were pregnant and already radicalised by Boko Haram.
Nkeki thanked President Buhari for summoning the courage and the political will that eventually led to the release of the abducted girls.
Dr. Shiktra Kwali, who delivered the sermon enjoined the girls to see their freedom as a new beginning.
Several ministers of God, including the President of the Church of Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), Reverend Joel Bilili, offered prayers for the girls.
Meanwhile, former military President, General Ibrahim BadamasI Babangida, has described as a welcome development, the release of the 21Chibok school girls from the Boko Haram’s den.
The former military president, while reacting for the first time after the news of the release of the girls spread like wide fire, yesterday, in Minna, said: “It was a thing of joy for the girls to have been reunited with their families after being taken away in such painfully and abrupt manner for over two and half years.”
He said the release of the 21 girls signaled hope, “after such moments of despair that the abduction of over 200 schools girls brought to the family and the entire country, as well as the global community”.
General Babangida, therefore, said it was gratifying to see the release of 21 of the girls, after negotiations with the Boko Haram.
“It is an indication that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is committed to ensuring safe release of the girls,” Babangida said.
He also lauded Buhari for the resilience showed so far on the release of the abducted girls despite the general lethargy and dampening spirit caused by the mode of operation of the deadly group.
He also, urged the federal government and security agents and other partners to hasten negotiations to free the remaining girls.
The former military president reaffirmed his confidence in the
Nigerian armed forces and other security agencies towards ensuring that an end is put to the activities of the Boko Haram sect completely.
He maintained that the Nigeria armed forces have the training and the professional background to end all forms of security threat to the nation, such as kidnappings, armed robbery, cattle rustling, farmers/herders clashes and other forms of vandalism.
He also called on Nigerians to offer all forms of assistance to the released Chibok girls to enable them overcome the mental, physical and psychological trauma they had gone through over the past two and half years.