President Buhari receives Dapchi girls, promises amnesty to repentant insurgents

 Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja.

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President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration will grant amnesty to repentant members of the boko haram sect who show strong commitment to laying down their arms.

President Buhari stated this on Friday when he received the freed 105 Dapchi schools girls and two boys at the State House, Abuja.

The girls were among the 110 abducted at the Government Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, North Eastern Nigeria, last month.

“Our government is ever 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 said, adding “we are ready to rehabilitate and integrate such repentant member into the larger society.”

While appealing to all Nigerians to embrace peace for the development of the country, he warned “against elements who have chosen to make political fortune of our citizens’ misfortune.

“Government will not tolerate any attempt by any person or group to trivialize or politicize security issues for political motivated ends.

“Accordingly, security agencies will not hesitate to decisively deal with such unscrupulous characters.”

 President Buhari said government entered into negotiations with the abductors to ensure the release of the girls, who were abducted last month.

“This strategy paid off as the girls have been released without many incidents,” he said.

He emphasized his administration’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and insurgency and called on all Nigerians to join in the task of fighting the evil.

Further measures

President Buhari directed the security agencies to put in place further measures around all the schools vulnerable to attacks to ensure the safety of pupils, students, teachers and school workers.

He said: “I have tasked all the security agencies to work to ensure that we do not witness any reoccurrence of these incidents. Security chiefs have been warned in clear terms that any lapse on their parts will be viewed seriously.”

 The president assured the rescued girls that they would “freely live and pursue their dreams in Nigeria of peace and order, without fear of violence or molestation.”

President Buhari appealed to the Chibok community, whose daughters were also abducted in 2014, not to lose hope or despair as his government was determined to bring back the remaining Chibok girls.

Also speaking, the Director of the Department of State Security, DSS, Lawal Daura said “intense behind-the-scene dialogue spearheaded by the DSS” led to the release of the girls.

He said the insurgents’ only condition was their demand for cessation of hostilities and temporary ceasefire to enable them to return the girls at the point they picked them.

 “The exercise was arduous and quite challenging.  The sensitivity of the operation and some uncertainties surrounding it, particularly routes to be used, the nature of transportation, realization and concern that the girls were not kept at one place, issues of encountering check points within the theatre and indeed keeping the operation on strictly the principles made the whole exercise more complicated.”

According to him, the primary interest for engaging in the dialogue, beyond the release of the girls, was informed by the need to able to secure a permanent and possible cessation of hostilities;  to discuss the fate of arrested insurgents and innocent Nigerians being held hostage; and the possibility of granting amnesty to repentant insurgents.

“These presently seem problematic because the insurgents are factionalized while wielding various spheres of influence in their guerilla-controlled enclaves,” Daura said, adding that “the negative impact of the social media on otherwise classified operations” as well as comments by government functionaries who were not competent to speak on the operation “almost  marred the operation.”

He said the girls were taken to the medical facility of the DSS and put through programmes to give them mental stability.

Daura said four of the girls had broken limbs and were sent for x-ray, while almost all of them had some skin infections as a result of their inability to have their baths in about a month.

“They have been medically examined and those with ailments were treated,” he said.

 Daura said “the remaining six Dapchi girls are yet to be accounted for and dialogue on these students is ongoing.”

Among those received by President Buhari on Friday were two Primary Six pupils, Hafsat Haruna, 11; and Mala Maina Bukar, 13.

One of the rescued girls, Fatima Bashir, a Junior Secondary School 3, at the Government Science Technical School, Dapchi, where they were abducted, spoke on behalf of the girls and thanked President Buhari for their release.