Freed Dapchi schoolgirls airlifted to Abuja

Faces of the freed Dapchi girls airlifted to Abuja aboard a military transport plane

The Federal Government Delegation meets the freed Dapchi schoolgirls at the Nigerian Air Force Base in Maiguduri on Wednesday.

The abducted Dapchi schoolgirls who regained their freedom on Wednesday have been airlifted to Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

They were flown to Abuja aboard a military plane from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital after being handed over to the Federal Government by the military there.

Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, handed over the freed girls to a four-member Federal Government delegation in the evening.

The delegation comprised of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Danbazzau; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim; and a member of the House of Representatives, Goni Lawan Bukar, from Dapchi.

Of the 110 girls snatched by Boko Haram on February 19, the Federal Government said 104 were returned by the terrorists with six unaccounted for.

They were freed with two minors – a boy and a girl – who were also airlifted to Abuja with the schoolgirls.

The Federal Government had initially put the number of girls freed at 76 before revising it upwards – to 101, 105 and 104 after verification.

The abduction of the girls had sparked outrage and forced many to recall the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno State in 2014. More than a hundred of the Chibok girls are still in captivity.

While Wednesday’s news led to jubilation in Dapchi and other parts of the country, some had mixed reactions about it and called into question the manner of their release and the terms. There were also questions about the fate of the six girls that were not returned.

The Minister of Information and Culture, however, said the girls were released unconditionally.

“What happened was that the abduction itself was a breach of the ceasefire talks between the insurgents and the government, hence it became a moral burden on the abductors. Any report that we paid ransom or engaged in prisoner swap is false,” he said.

The ruling All Progressives Congress also welcomed the news in a statement and assured Nigerians that the remaining Chibok girls would be freed, while also taking a swipe at the Peoples Democratic Party.

“If the immediate-past Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration had responded with the similar alacrity, the Chibok schoolgirls would have been released or rescued. Instead, the PDP wasted several weeks wallowing in denial and conspiracy theories such that it was now left for the APC government to rescue many of the girls and rehabilitate them.”

The PDP, for its part, believes the Dapchi abduction was staged for political gain.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Wednesday, it called on the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the incident.

“Our Party considers this act as wicked, callous and tormenting to use innocent schoolgirls as pawns in an ignoble script that was designed to hoodwink Nigerians, all to push a 2019 reelection bid,” it said.

“While this failed Dapchi drama remains a poorly crafted tragicomedy: a scam of no equal dimension, Nigerians are not ready to forgive the APC and the Presidency for the torments inflicted on the girls.”

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