Thirteen persons, including 10 policewomen and three University of Maiduguri professors were yesterday released by Boko Haram to the federal government.
The 10 women police officers were abducted during a raid by the militant group on a military/police convoy on Damboa road, near Maiduguri, while the three university professors were kidnapped during an oil exploration in Magumeri, Borno
Following their release, President Muhammadu Buhari received a briefing from the Department of State Services (DSS) on the rescued 13 people, who were abducted at different times last year by the Boko Haram sect.
Announcing the release in a statement last night, the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Malam Garba Shehu, who said both the release of 10 women and the university dons was a product of negotiations, added that Buhari charged the DSS to also hasten the release of the remaining Chibok girls.
According to him, their release was the bye-product of a series of negotiations directed by Buhari and facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Shehu further said the DSS told Buhari that the 13 rescued individuals were currently in the custody of the agency and were on their way to Abuja with the assistance of the Nigerian Army and the Air Force.
“In expectation of their being brought to the DSS headquarters, a team of doctors and psychologists has been placed on standby.
“The rescued persons may be presented to the president and thereafter released to their families, if there are no issues of security or medical concerns.
“The president, who got step by step progress reports on the lengthy negotiations while they took place, received the good news with a lot of happiness.
“He commended all those who in one way or the other helped in making the release possible.
“He then urged the DSS and the Nigerian Army to intensify efforts to bring home the remaining Chibok girls still in the custody of the terrorists.
“The Director-General, Malam Lawal Daura, assured the president that they were working hard to bring home the remaining girls and, as soon as possible, bring the issue of Chibok girls to an end,” the statement noted.
Meanwhile, ICRC, in a statement yesterday, claimed it facilitated the release of the three professors and ten women police officers.
The statement read: “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today (Saturday) facilitated the handover — from the armed opposition to the Nigerian military — of 10 women police officers and three university professors.”
“This operation in North-east Nigeria, with the ICRC acting as a neutral intermediary, was carried out at the request of the parties to the ongoing armed conflict.”
The statement quoted its Deputy Regional Director for Africa, Patrick Youssef, as saying: “We are so pleased that these 13 people are free and will be able to see their families again.”
The statement claimed that: “The ICRC was not involved in any negotiations that led to the handover of the 13 people. The armed opposition handed the 13 people over to ICRC representatives, who transported them to Nigerian authorities. This action was similar to what the ICRC did in October 2016 and May 2017, when we transported the released “Chibok girls” to Nigerian officials.”
“There are many people missing or being held against their will due to the conflict,” said Youssef. “This creates untold trauma and suffering, including for families across the Lake Chad region, who must live with the daily uncertainty and anguish of not knowing the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones. We hope that these people, too, will get to return to their families soon.”
The statement emphasised that: “The ICRC remains ready to provide similar humanitarian services in the future when asked by relevant parties to the conflict.”
In a separate statement by the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said the president has been briefed on the development and was happy about it.
The statement read: “The Department of State Services, DSS Saturday briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the release, through negotiations, of three University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) lecturers abducted by suspected Boko Haram terrorists in Magumeri, Borno State.
“Also released from the Boko Haram terrorists are 10 women, kidnapped in a raid by the militant group on a military/police convoy on Damboa road, near Maiduguri.
“Their release followed a series of negotiations as directed by President Buhari and was facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross .”
He added that: “According to the brief given by the DSS, all 13 rescued persons are in the custody of the service and are on their way to Abuja with the assistance of the Nigerian Army and the Air Force.
“In expectation of their being brought to the DSS headquarters, a team of doctors and psychologists has been placed on standby. The rescued persons may be presented to the President and thereafter released to their families, if there are no issues of security or medical concerns.”
Shehu said: “The President, who got step by step progress reports on the lengthy negotiations while they took place, received the good news with a lot of happiness. He commended all those who in one way or the other helped in making the release possible.
“He then urged the DSS and the Nigerian Army to intensify efforts to bring home the remaining Chibok Girls still in the custody of the terrorists.”
The President’s spokesman said: “The Director-General, Malam Lawal Daura, assured the president that they were working hard to bring home the remaining girls and, as soon as possible, bring the Chibok Girls to an end.”
In a similar development, the military has rescued a woman and her granddaughter from the Sambisa enclave of the insurgents.
The military revealed that: “Troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE have continued to record success in Operation DEEP PUNCH II inside Sambisa forest. Just yesterday, Friday 9th February 2018, they have cleared some discovered enclaves and rescued an elderly woman and her granddaughter.
The military promised in the statement that: “The ongoing operation will continue until all abducted persons are rescued from the Boko Haram terrorist wherever they might be.”
It however asked that: “Consequently, communities must remain vigilant and report strange persons or unusual movements and escapees.”
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