Some Chibok girls to return to school


The 82 girls freed by Boko Haram after being held captive for three years are still waiting to be reunited with their families, while all the girls found last year will go back to school in September, Nigerian officials said.

Twenty-four girls, among around 270 kidnapped by the Islamist militant group from Chibok in north-east Nigeria in April 2014, are to return to school in September, the president’s spokesman said.

Those going back to school include the 21 freed last October in a deal brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and three others who escaped or were rescued.
“Government is preparing the girls to go back to school in September because they lost so much academically,” said presidency spokesman Garba Shehu. “It is not all the 103 so far released, but 24 of them,” he added.

None of the girls released on Saturday were among those returning to school as they were still undergoing medical and psychological treatment in Abuja that should last two to three weeks, government’s Twitter feed stated.

On Saturday, 82 girls were released in exchange for members of the jihadist group that has killed 15,000 people since 2009 in an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in the northeast.

Aisha Jummai Alhassan, the minister of women affairs, told reporters photographs of the girls had been sent to families in Chibok for identification.

The minister said government was careful about who was granted access to the 24 girls who left captivity last year. They are in Abuja in a rehabilitation programme.
“The parents of the #Chibokgirls are free to visit them at any time. We will never prevent them from seeing their daughters,” a government tweet quoted Alhassan as saying.

Three years ago, the abduction of the girls from their secondary school by Boko Haram sparked global outrage and a celebrity-backed campaign #bringbackourgirls.

For more than two years there was no sign of the girls. But the discovery of one of them with a baby last May raised hopes for their safety, with a further two girls found later and a group of 21 released in October.

Mediator and lawyer Zannah Mustapha said some of the abducted girls refused to be freed with the 82 girls last weekend, fuelling fears they have been radicalised by the jihadists and may feel afraid, ashamed or even too powerful to return to their old lives.