President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the payment of N164.8m for the second semester school fees of the freed 106 Chibok girls at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola.
He also restated his commitment to the safe return of the remaining girls in Boko Haram’s captivity.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed these in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.
Shehu quoted Buhari as expressing delight at the progress made in the rehabilitation of the 106 girls now in AUN, owned by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who on Friday resigned from the ruling All Progressives Congress.
He said the President made the approval for the payment of the school fees while reviewing the progress report submitted to him in line with his commitment to personally monitor the rehabilitation and reintegration of the freed Chibok girls into the society.
“In line with this, the President has approved the payment of the sum of N164,763,759 for the second semester school fees of the 106 Chibok girls at the American University of Nigeria, AUN in Yola,” the statement read.
Shehu said according to the progress report received by the President, the decision to pursue avenues in addition to military action to free the abducted girls was to protect the lives of all Nigerians, to end the insurgency in the North-East and to fulfill one of the campaign promises of the President.
The presidential spokesman explained that it was in line with this that the Federal Government entered into negotiations with the Boko Haram sect for the release of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped from their school dormitory on the night of April 14, 2014.
He recalled that two batches of 21 and 82 girls had been freed as a result of those negotiations while three additional girls were rescued by the armed forces, bringing the number of freed Chibok girls so far to 106.
The statement added, “As a result of their experiences while in captivity, the freed girls were severely traumatised and afflicted by various ailments and injuries. Hence, they were taken to secure medical centres for attention.
“They also went through debriefing and de-radicalisation by security operatives, after which the girls were handed over to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.”
It said the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development was assigned the main role in the supervision, rehabilitation and the reintegration of the girls back into the society.
The statement said, “Long before the girls were released, the Federal Government had established the ‘Chibok Girls Desk’ in the ministry, responsible for acting on matters relating to the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, and serving as a channel of communication between relevant agencies and the parents and relatives of the abducted girls.
“The government, through the ministry of women affairs and, in collaboration with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA, UN Women, and other donor agencies, embarked on programmes earmarked to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of the Chibok girls with a nine-month time frame.
“A hostel in the National Centre for Women Development was converted into a suitable shelter, where the girls were kept for the nine-month period. The programme, which began in January 2017, ended in September 2017.
“During the period, the 106 girls were given lessons in English, Mathematics, Biology, Agriculture, and Civic Education. In addition, they were trained in ICT and vocational skills. Professionals were engaged to provide them with psycho-social therapy and one-on-one counselling to help them overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They were also provided with religious instructions and comprehensive care by two in-house doctors and two nurses. Periodic visits from the girls’ parents to stimulate family support and reunion were sponsored and organised by the ministry.”
Shehu said having successfully achieved the desired goals of the rehabilitation and reintegration programme, with recorded significant improvement in the academic performance of the girls, a final send-off was organised in September for the 106 Chibok girls and they were subsequently moved to the AUN in Yola for their foundation studies and continuation of their education.
He said the institution had successfully established a foundation school for 14 out of the 57 Chibok girls who escaped while the rest of their classmates were taken to the Sambisa Forest by Boko Haram.
The absorption of the 106 girls into the school, he said, marked the beginning of their integration into the larger Nigerian society, thus fulfilling Buhari’s promise of providing the best education for them.
He said although they had been officially handed over to their parents, the Federal Government would continue to be responsible for the payment of the Chibok girls’ school fees up to their graduation from the university.