The 21 Chibok girls released from the captivity of Boko Haram militants during the week have been reunited with their parents.
The rescued girls were reunited with their parents during a thanksgiving service held on Sunday in the nation’s capital city, Abuja.
Speaking at the church service, the Minister of Information Mr Lai Mohammed, announced that “the Federal Government is negotiating with Boko Haram for the release of the remaining Chibok Girls”.
It was an atmosphere of celebration, with the girls singing and dancing, thanking God for their release.
At a point, one of the girls took the microphone and sang thanksgiving songs and the others joined her in the merriment, serenading the environment with a feeling of joy and relief.
For over two years they have endured captivity in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists.
Their freedom last Thursday took the world by surprise.
One of the girls, Gloria Dame, who spoke on behalf of the group in Hausa, said they were grateful to be alive.
After her speech, the service continued, with a priest delivering words of encouragement to the girls.
In his sermon, Dr. Shiktra Kwali told the girls that as they start a new life in freedom, they should not allow the experience of the past to weigh them down.
He further urged them to remain steadfast in serving the Lord, who has not forsaken them even in captivity.
Midway into the service, however, the parents of the girls arrived and not minding the downpour, the girls on identifying their parents ran to embrace them.
From Tears To Dancing
Tears flowed freely and emotions were visible, as the parents finally reunited with their children.
With calm restored, the mood changed from tears to dancing of joy among the parents and their children.
Some of the parents of the released girls shared their feelings about the return of their children.
The Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, assured them that the government was working for the release of the remaining girls.
Over 200 girls were taken from their school’s dormitory on April 14, 2014 by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Their abduction triggered wide-spread protests globally, popularising a “Bring Back Our Girls” slogan.
Less than 40 of the girls have been rescued so far.
Confirming the release of the girls on Thursday, Mr Mohammed told reporters that the Federal Government secured the release of the girls through the collaborative efforts of the security agencies, a friendly European country and a renowned International Humanitarian Organisation.
“We can confirm that 21 of the girls were released, safely, to us by 5.30 this Thursday morning and they were flown to Kaduna from the location of their release.
“This is the most glaring manifestation to date of the unwavering commitment of Mr President to secure the safe release of the girls and reunite them with their families.
“It is also a result of the round-the-clock efforts by the Administration to put a closure to the sad issue of the kidnap of the girls,” he stated.
‘Not A Swap’
After they were released there were speculations that their release was secured through a swap deal, but the Minister of Information also dismissed the claims.
He said that their release was based on confidence and not a swap arrangement with the terrorists group.
“This is not a swap. This was a release which was effected because over time, we succeeded in confidence building.
“This particular release is significant because it’s just a first step in what we believe will lead to the eventual release of all our girls in custody. It is significant also because we have been able to establish more than ever before a confidence in both the leadership of Boko Haram and Nigerians.
“I am not aware of any monetary transaction,” he said.
In fulfilment of a promise to rehabilitate the girls, after the celebration on Sunday, the girls were, however, not handed over to their parents. They are to remain with the government for some time for further medical assistance and counselling.
The government had said it would begin an immediate rehabilitation of the released Chibok girls.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced the plan after seeing the girls at the Department Of State Services (DSS) office in Abuja on Thursday.[Channels]