Abdulsalami, Onaiyekan hail Chibok girls’ release

A former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, on Friday, hailed the release of 21 of the Chibok schoolgirls who have been hostages of the terrorist group, Boko Haram, for over two years.

Also, Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, Nigeria, John Onaiyekan, said that the release of the girls called for celebration.

While Abubakar spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun State, after his visit to the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo III, Onaiyekan made his remark, equally on Friday, during his visit on the invitation of the Bishop of Ilorin, Kwara State, Ayo Maria Atoyebi, for the annual one-week spiritual retreat for priests of the Ilorin Diocese.

Abubakar, fielding questions from journalists, described the girls’ captivity as an episode that would never occur again in the country.

The former head of state, who was accompanied by his wife, Justice Fati Lami Abubakar and two sons, commended those involved in the rescue of the girls and prayed that the remaining ones would return to their parents safely.

“First and foremost, we give glory to God for saving the children and we congratulate everyone who was involved in bringing them back. We pray that the rest will come back safely. I congratulate the parents who have agonised since this incident happened. It is an episode and we pray that never will such happen again in our country,” he said.

He had earlier paid a courtesy call on the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, at the Government House, Abeokuta.

Bishop Onaiyekan, also in a chat with journalists, called on the Federal Government to be transparent about the process that led to the release of the girls.

“Yes, of course, we should celebrate. Every life is worth celebrating. It is more than 900 days that more than 200 of our girls were taken away. The whole world had been asking what’s happening. Twenty-one out of 200 is not really a big deal, anyway. But, at least the parents of those 21 girls can rest now that they have found their daughters.  It’s worth celebrating.

“But the whole thing is a shame on our nation. It is, still, a greater shame that they are not explaining where the other girls are. Have they died? Have they given them to someone else? And the conditions for their release, I don’t know and we are asking for the truth; whether they released their [Boko Haram’s] men or not,” he said.

The cleric also said that the Federal Government should go ahead and negotiate the swap of the remaining girls with the arrested terrorists, adding that it is not a shame to do that.

“But I am one of those who have always said that if what it takes to release those girls is to release some Boko Haram terrorists in detention, we should let go of those criminals. We should not have waited till now.

“I hope the government would deal with it in a transparent way and tell us the truth about it. We deserve to know because it is not going to be wise to still be telling stories and playing games at this stage.

“If the government admitted that they released some terrorists, there is nothing to be ashamed of, because the shame already on ground is big enough. So, I am hoping that those who are advising government or speaking on its behalf will realise that the matter has generated attention worldwide.

“As for the state the girls are now, no one would expect, after about three years away, that they will come back the same. I am even surprised that only 18 are nursing mothers and others are not. If others are not mothers, it is not that they haven’t been touched. We are yet to get the full story. Let’s simply say they are making progress. And government should stop playing hide and seek over the matter,” he added.