The federal government has confirmed that it has four babies born by the female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, who were kidnapped from their school dormitory three years ago by Boko Haram insurgents, in its custody.
Making this known yesterday, the government also opened up on the rehabilitation and reintegration programmes it is providing for the 106 Chibok schoolgirls who were either freed or had escaped from their captors, adding that it has concluded arrangements to reunite the 82 girls who were released recently with their parents this week.
Two hundred and seventy six students of the school in Chibok were abducted on April 14, 2014, sparking a global outcry and push for their rescue and return to their parents.
Fifty-seven of the girls escaped from captivity in the days immediately after their captivity, three more were able to escape between May 2016 and January 2017, another 21 were freed last October, while 82 were freed on May 6, 2017 after a prisoner swap with Boko Haram, bringing the total number of girls still in captivity to 113.
Of the 163 girls that have either escaped or regained their freedom, 106 remain in the custody of the federal government in Abuja, fuelling concerns over why they have not been reintegrated with their families and community, or even sent back to school by government.
However, the federal government in a statement from the Presidency Office of Digital Engagement (PODE) said yesterday that the parents and families of all the girls had been contacted and arrangements were already being made to reunite them with the girls.
“We expect that this reunion will happen in the week commencing 15th May, 2017,” it said.
It added that the girls would be given appropriate and comprehensive medical and psychological care and support, and government would underwrite all of the care they will receive, as well as ensuring that their education is concluded.
“The ultimate goal is to reunite them with their families, reintegrate them into the society and support them to achieve their personal, educational, and professional goals and ambitions,” the government said in the statement.
It said the 21 girls who were released in October 2016 and the additional three that gained their freedom were in a secure location in Abuja.
Providing more insight, it said the girls were undergoing a nine-month reintegration and rehabilitation programmes comprising psychological counselling and care, remedial education, vocational training (skills like catering and tailoring) as well as sports and recreation (football and handball).
“In addition to the girls there are four babies, also in the care of the government. All four babies belong to mothers within the batch of 24,” it added.
It described as absolutely false, claims that the parents of the girls had been denied access to them or that the girls were being held against their wishes.
It stressed that those who had complained about not having access to the girls were either community people or activists who have no filial or direct relationships with the girls.
“The girls and their parents have made it clear that they wish to remain under the care of the federal government in Abuja at this time.
“The girls are all in high spirits and are enthusiastic about taking advantage of this opportunity for education and self-development.
“At no point have they or will they be compelled to remain in the care of the government against their will. At the end of the reintegration programme, the girls will take up federal government scholarships for the completion of their secondary education.
“The recently released 82 girls will enjoy the same opportunities accorded the 24 previously rescued girls.
“The girls’ families are regularly in Abuja to see them. Chibok girls are high-profile targets and the government is taking the utmost care to ensure their security and safety.
“The girls have also been scheduled for quarterly visits back home to Chibok, subject to security clearance by the authorities,” the statement said.
The government recalled that the girls visited Chibok during the Christmas holiday and were due to return at Easter, but the security condition at home did not make the visit conducive in April.
“Instead their families travelled to Abuja to see them.
“Also note that the persons complaining about being denied access to the 21 girls are not their biological parents or guardians. We are very careful who we grant access to, to see the girls.
“We will only grant access to their biological parents and/or direct guardians and not community members, both for security and for psychological reasons.
“We do not want people to keep asking them questions that will make them relive the horrible experiences they had while in captivity,” the government said.