By OKOSUN DENNIS
It was a moment of unlimited joy and celebration in Abuja on Sunday as parents of the 21 Chibok girls, who were released by Boko Haram militants on Thursday, reunited with their parents during a thanksgiving service.
Tears flowed as the parents were ushered into the venue and the released girls began to identify with their parents. So many of the invited guests joined in celebrating their release with joy including members of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigners.
Over 250 Chibok school girls were kidnapped in the school dormitory at the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014.
At the venue of the thanksgiving service held at the Department of State Services health facility, located along the Airport Road, Abuja, to mark the release of the girls, the girls recounted their ordeals.
While some said they were not feed as much as 40 days in the bush, others gave gory details of suffering they went through in the hands of the insurgents.
Gloria Dame, one of the rescued girls, who spoke while giving testimony on behalf of her colleagues, said they survived through divine intervention and the zeal to confront the situation they found themselves.
Speaking in Hausa language, said, “I did not know that a day like this will come that we will be dancing and giving thanks to God among people. For one month and 10 days, we stayed without food. I narrowly escaped a bomb blast in the forest.
“We are praying to God to touch the heart of Boko Haram to repent and we are calling on Nigerians to pray and fast for the release of our remaining ones in captivity.”
The parents expressed thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari and all Nigerians for their efforts and prayers towards the rescue of their daughters.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said very soon more girls will be released. The Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Jummai Alhassan, who attended also attended the service, wept uncontrollably while the girls gave their testimony.
The Chairman of the Chibok Local Government Council, Mr. Yaga Yarakawa, said the release of the girls was “historic’’ and the Chibok community at home and in the Diaspora were happy about the development.
Yarakawa said contrary to the views of some Nigerians, the 21 freed girls were the actual Chibok Secondary School girls because “Before their abduction, I was involved in supervising their feeding which was organised by the Borno State Secondary Schools Feeding System. So, I know them very well.
Dr. Shiktra Kwali, who delivered the sermon at the thanksgiving service, told the girls that as they started a new life in freedom, they should not allow the experience of the past to weigh them down.
He urged them to remain steadfast in serving the Lord, who had not forsaken them even in captivity.
One of the parents and father to Deborah, Mr. Salman Gaphani, said his daughter just got married and was pregnant before she was abducted by terrorists in 2014.
He explained that Deborah’s husband remarried sometimes later after the schoolgirl could not be rescued.
Jafa’aru stated that Deborah had earlier concluded her secondary school education and was at the Chibok Government School to re-sit her examination when she was abducted along with her colleagues.
“She just got married two weeks before returning for her papers and they took her; her husband has remarried now. They abducted her while she was pregnant and she had my grandchild there, but I’m just grateful to God and the government for returning my daughter and grandchild to me safely, words cannot describe how I feel at the moment.”
“I am entrusting my daughter in the care of the government. Let them take care of her, give her all the education she wants, even if it means taking her to America; I give them the permission to do it. She has always wanted to be educated, now I want the government to help her attain the level of education she wants to attain.”
It was learnt that the Federal Government had assembled a high-powered medical team to rehabilitate the girls and take them through psychological orientation to assist them re-adjust to life.
In her reaction, the lawmaker representing Chibok/Gwoza/Damboa at the House of Representatives, Mrs. Asabe Bashir, said on Sunday that the Federal Government should ensure that the 21 freed Chibok girls returned to school as soon as it was possible.
In a related development, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, hinted that the terrorist said on Sunday are ready to negotiate the release of
more 83 Chibok girls.
“The faction said it is ready to negotiate if the government is willing to sit down with them,” Shehu added.