Schoolgirls released by Boko Haram reunited with parents

LAGOS, Nigeria — On Sunday October 16, a special thanksgiving (church service) and reunion with families was organised by the Nigerian government in Abuja.

In attendance were sympathizers, clergymen, government officials, 21 of the more than 200 schoolgirls that had been held hostage since 2014 and their parents.

It took the intervention of a deal brokered by an international humanitarian organisation, Red Cross and the Swiss government between Boko Haram before securing the release of the girls in the early hours of Thursday last week.

Spokesperson for the 21 released girls, Miss Gloria Dame, while expressing gratitude to the Nigerian government said: “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 behind.”

More girls are expected to be released soon. This assurance was made by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu. He said “The Mamman Nur, a faction of Boko Haram has indicated its willingness to negotiate the release of more Chibok girls in their custody.”

“The group claims that it has 83 more girls to release on negotiation”, Shehu added.

Efforts are ongoing from the negotiation team to ensure release of the rest of the girls. Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, during the reunion ceremony urged the media not to jeopardize the move, saying: “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 that we make. We must not make comments that will make the release of these girls difficult or impossible.”

There is wide speculation among the public that a large proportion of the 21 released girls may be pregnant.

(Reporting by Adedayo Osho; Editing by Robyn Hunter & Dejan S. )