Abuja: A group of Nigerian parents are excitedly waiting to be reunited with 21 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram two years ago and freed in the first negotiated release organised by the government and the Islamist group.
“When we heard that they found some of the girls and our daughter was among them … we wanted the day to break in a hurry to see if the government is going to call us to come see our daughter,” father Muta Abana said.
The girls were released on Thursday and flown to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, but it’s taken days for the parents to arrive. Most arrived on Sunday after driving hours over potholed roads slowed by military checkpoints and the danger of attack by the insurgents, said community leader Tsambido Hosea Abana.
The parents came from the remote northeastern town of Chibok, where nearly 300 girls were kidnapped on April 2014 in a mass abduction that shocked the world. Dozens of schoolgirls escaped in the first few hours but after last week’s release, 197 remain captive. The government says negotiations are continuing to win their freedom.
Abana, the father of one of the released girls who has been living in Nasarawa state neighbouring Abuja, expressed anxiety as many of the girls reportedly have been forced to marry Boko Haram fighters.
“Some of them came back with babies, but think about it, are we going to kill the children?” Abana asked, speaking in the Hausa language. “We won’t be able to kill the children because it would be as if we don’t want the girls to come back. God knows why it happened. It’s God’s will.”
He also said the girls’ abduction has been politicised, complaining that, “People’s children aren’t money, people’s children are not clothes you wear to campaign, people’s children are their pride.”
The girls are getting medical attention and trauma counselling in a hospital, said Tsambido Abana, the Chibok community leader in Abuja. Some are “emaciated” from hunger, he said.
There are conflicting reports about how the girls were freed, with two military officers telling the AP they were exchanged for four detained Boko Haram commanders, and a Nigerian who negotiated previous failed attempts saying a large ransom was paid by the Swiss government on behalf of Nigerian authorities. The officers and the negotiator, who did not take part in the latest talks, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to discuss the matter with the press.