Eighty-two of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls have been released by their Boko Haram captors, according to a report from The Christian Post.
The nearly 300 girls were abducted three years ago, and while several of them were released previously, were able to escape, or reportedly died, this marks the largest release of the captives.
The Nigerian government has been under pressure to negotiate the release of the girls. The girls’ parents and communities have not stopped campaigning for their rescue. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign received national attention.
Released in exchange for Boko Haram militants
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s government was able to negotiate the release of the girls in exchange for the release of suspected Boko Haram prisoners.
According to World, several military helicopters on Saturday transported the girls from north-eastern Nigeria to Abuja, the capital city. By Sunday evening, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu had listed the girls’ names on his Twitter page. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari received the girls at his official residence and commended the groups that assisted with the release.
“No human being should go through this kind of ordeal,” Buhari said Sunday. “Let me reassure Nigerians, especially relatives and friends of the remaining girls that the federal government will spare no effort to see that they and all other Nigerians who have been abducted safely regain their freedom.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the Swiss government, and other international and local non-profits assisted in the negotiations and release, authorities said. Shehu said in a statement the rescue involved lengthy negotiations and the return of some Boko Haram militants held by authorities. Sen Shehu Sani told CNN that discussions to free the remaining girls would begin at the end of the week.
Reintegration and counselling
Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director Osai Ojigbo welcomed the girls’ release and called on the government to ensure they receive adequate counselling to ease their reintegration.
“The government should also respect their privacy and ensure that the girls are reunited with their families and not kept in lengthy detention and security screening, which can only add to their suffering and plight,” Ojigbo said.
World reports further that Eugene Kongnyuy, the deputy representative of the United Nation’s Population Fund in Nigeria, said the government handed over the girls to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the UN agency.
“An emergency team of psychosocial counsellors and health professionals have been deployed to assist with the profiling of the girls,” the UN agency said in a statement. “The programme is tailor-made to meet each girl’s peculiar needs of counselling to help overcome the trauma endured after being held under captivity for more than three years.”
Kongnyuy said the rehabilitation process, which includes psychosocial counselling, would last between nine months to a year. The girls also have the option either to continue their education by preparing for the national high school exam or begin a skill acquisition session.