82 schoolgirls previously abducted from the Chibok School almost 3 years ago were released Saturday 5th May 2017 by the Boko Haram militants.
They were flown by helicopter to the central capital of Nigeria Abuja and met with the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
They were escorted to the reception in the capital Abuja by armed soldiers, after a check-up at a medical centre.
Mr Buhari said he was joyous that they were free. He is now traveling to London for medical reasons as concern grows for his health.
The girls were handed over on Saturday morning in exchange for Boko Haram suspects after negotiations and lengthy talks between representatives from the Nigerian Government and from other countries.
As you recall, Boko Haram stormed the government girl school compounds in Chibok north-eastern part of Nigeria in 2014 and abducted 276 teenage girls into large lorries and vans. Almost 50 girls were brave enough to escape from their clutches by jumping out of the moving trucks and hiding out in the gutters and bushes for hours. 21 girls in early October 2016 were released by the militants as part of a negotiation agreement with the Red Cross
“I cannot express in a few words how happy I am to welcome our dear girls back to freedom,” Mr Buhari told the girls in Abuja, according to his office.
“On behalf of all Nigerians, I will like to share my joy with you,” he said.
Mr Buhari would have left earlier on Sunday to London but wanted to receive the schoolgirls, his spokesman Femi Adesina said.
Arriving in Abuja earlier, some of the girls looked tired and confused by all the attention after spending three years in captivity.
Before being taken to the capital, they were brought by road convoy from a remote area to a military base in Banki near the border with Cameroon.
“This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day,” Christian pastor Enoch Mark, whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, told Agence France-Presse.
“We hope the remaining girls will soon be released.” It was unclear whether his daughters had been freed.
A statement from a spokesman for President Buhari earlier said he was deeply grateful to “security agencies, the military, the Government of Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and local and international NGOs” for playing a role in the operation.
The campaign hastag #Bringbackourgirls drew international support and recognition and brought the then US First Lady Michelle Obama and many Hollywood stars to put pressure on the previous Nigerian government Administration lead by former President Goodluck Johnathan to act. Last month, President Buhari said the government remained “in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed”.
Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of other people during its eight-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in north-eastern Nigeria.
More than 30,000 others have been killed, the government says, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee from their homes.
Boko Haram at a glance:
- Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
- Launched military operations in 2009
- Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including hundreds of schoolgirls
- Seized large area in north-east Nigeria, where it declared a caliphate
- Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS’s “West African province”
- Regional force has now retaken most of the captured territory
- Group split in August after rival leaders emerged