Following the rescue of 293 women and girls from Sambisa forest by Nigerian troops, the Borno State Government has confirmed that the rescued women and girls are not the missing Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted a year ago by Boko Haram insurgents, but indigenes of Gumsiri village in Damboa Local Government Area of the state.
The Commissioner for Information, Dr. Mohammed Bulama, at a briefing, told journalists that the profiles of the 200 girls and 93 women rescued by the military on Tuesday showed that they were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from Gumsiri village.
The Borno government, through Bulama, commended the Nigerian Army for rescuing the 293 women/girls from captivity, adding that it still believed and hoped that other abducted persons would be rescued soon.
Bulama said the government had started making plans to put in place all the necessary structures to rehabilitate and reintegrate the freed 293 females back into the society.
“These girls and women rescued are still our daughters, just as much as the Chibok girls, and we have to commend the military for liberating them, hoping that the rest will equally be liberated.
“Though everyone had thought they were the Chibok girls because of the hype surrounding the abduction of the Chibok girls, but we should not lose sight that they are as important as the Chibok girls and those that are still in captivity who we hope would be liberated soon.
“But at the moment, we are looking up to the time the 293 women and girls would be handed to us so that we can begin the process of rehabilitating and reinterpreting them back to the society,” he said.
The government’s disclosure of the identity of the rescued females followed the growing speculation over the possible rescue of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists a year ago.
Thousands of women are believed to have been kidnapped by the insurgents in the last few years, but the kidnapping that drew the attention of the world was that of the Chibok schoolgirls.
Also commenting on the rescue of the 293 females from the Boko Haram enclave by the military, the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, in a statement by his media aide, Mallam Isa Gusau, said the military’s operation that led to the liberation was “gratifying regardless of whether or not the rescued women form part of the over 200 schoolgirls abducted by insurgents from Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State on April 14, 2014”.
The statement added: “The lives, safety and well-being of all citizens of Borno are of equal importance to him and as such he celebrates news about the rescue with so much excitement in a manner he would celebrate when the military succeeds in freeing the Chibok schoolgirls who he said are very dear to him as they are to the entire world given the fact that they were kidnapped under special circumstances when they were in school and captured in large numbers.”
The governor, in the statement, said his administration would prefer the military to remain the principal channel of information to the public since the rescue was a product of a military operation and in order to avoid multiple sources of information that could bring about mix-ups.
“I was so full of excitement, gratitude to God almighty and commendation to our gallant armed forces for this great humanitarian feat.
“For me, the lives, safety and welfare of all citizens of Borno State are of equal importance. These rescued women are daughters, sisters and perhaps also mothers whose lives are important not just to their loved ones but also to me as governor of Borno State whose mandate is to cater for the welfare of all those living in any part of Borno State regardless of who they are, their faith, gender, age, geopolitical origin, and other background elements.
“They are important to us and words cannot explain how pleased we are. We are very particular about the Chibok schoolgirls because of the peculiar manner in which they were kidnapped and how that kidnapping has redefined the Boko Haram insurgency.
“The Chibok schoolgirls are very dear to my heart because they were kidnapped, while they were in school. Their kidnapping was very symbolic because their kidnappers are opposed to Western education especially female education.
“The entire world, especially myself, is desperate about the rescue of the Chibok schoolgirls in order not to allow the ideology held by the insurgents to thrive and to encourage education which is the foundation of any human or society that seeks to develop,” he said.
Shettima, however, stressed that the rescue of the 293 women and girls was also very dear to him, stating: “I am as pleased as much as I would be when the Chibok schoolgirls are rescued by the special grace of God. I am very optimistic, prayerful and supportive of the military’s ongoing rescue and counter-insurgency operations.
“We won’t give up on the Chibok schoolgirls like I said two weeks ago. No sane parent gives up on a missing child. I have daughters and I know the love of a parent for the girl-child.”
In another reaction, former vice-president and chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar also expressed elation at the news of the rescue of nearly 300 girls and women from the Sambisa forest by Nigerian troops.
The former vice-president said in a statement by his media office that it was unacceptable that hundreds of women, girls and boys had been abducted by Boko Haram over the last couple of months.
“While we rejoice over the rescue of the women and girls, we urge that our military continues steadfastly in the operations until all abducted Nigerians have been rescued and territories recaptured,” Atiku said.
The Turaki Adamawa expressed his unwavering support for Nigeria’s military forces in their ongoing mission to restore peace and the country’s sovereignty.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian military said yesterday that it had transported the women and girls rescued from Boko Haram to the hilly border town of Gwoza, as it seeks clues to the whereabouts of the Chibok girls.â€¨A military spokesman said the rescued girls would be transported for final checks to Abuja or Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
“We will take them to Abuja or Maiduguri for further investigation to determine whether Chibok girls were among them and where they come from,” military spokesman, Colonel Sani Usman, told Reuters.
While Boko Haram has snatched at least 2,000 women and girls from their families since the start of 2014, according to Amnesty International, the mass kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls has become a symbol of the insurgency that has plagued Nigeria for six years.
Diplomats and intelligence officials have said they believe at least some of the Chibok girls were being held in Boko Haram’s heavily fortified camps in the Sambisa forest, although US reconnaissance drones have failed to find them.
Analysts believe the captured schoolgirls may be used as human shields by the militants.
Women abducted by the group have been forced into sexual slavery or combat, Amnesty International said on April 14 in a report to mark the anniversary of the Chibok kidnapping.
For parents of the missing Chibok girls, news of the liberation of hundreds of women fired hopes of seeing their daughters alive.
“Since I heard the news it’s like I’m in heaven,” said Esther Yakub, whose daughter Dorcas was kidnapped. “I’ve never doubted the possibility of getting her back despite the news that has been flying around about all manner of dangers that could have befallen them.
“I’m just waiting for the moment when they hand her over into my arms.”
Boko Haram has been on the back foot since neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroun joined Nigerian forces in a joint operation against the group this year.