Information Minister Lai Mohammed confirmed that 21 of the over 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents were returned to safety on Thursday morning.
Addressing the press on Thursday in Abuja, Mr. Mohammed stated that the girls were flown to Kaduna after being dropped off by the insurgents in the Banki area in Borno State. He said they would later be relocated to Abuja where they will be examined by psychologists, medical doctors, social workers, and trauma experts. The names of the girls will be released to the public after these examinations, Mr. Mohammed added.
The Information Minister further explained that President Muhammadu Buhari, the Department of State Security (DSS), and the Nigerian military had been working closely with “a friendly European country and a renowned international humanitarian organization,” later revealed to be Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross, respectively, in order to secure the girls’ release.
Mr. Mohammed emphasized that the rescue operation was not a “swap,” saying that it was the result of “painstaking negotiations” between the two parties. He did not clarify, however, what the negotiations entailed or whether or not the government paid Boko Haram for the girls’ release.
He concluded the press conference by applauding the Nigerian people for their support, saying that this release represents a major step in rescuing the remainder of the abductees.
“We see this as a credible first step in the eventual release of all the Chibok girls in captivity. It is also a major step in confidence-building between us as a government and the Boko Haram leadership on the issue of the Chibok girls,” Mr. Mohammed said.