Emotional scenes, tears, huggings, Saturday dominated the reunion of the recently released 82 abducted Chibok girls with their parents.
At the reunion held in Abuja, fathers gripped their daughters in tight embrace, while mothers shrieked with joy, wiping away tears streaming from their eyes. In one scene, captured by the cameras, both the parents, along with one of the girls, burst out in tears of joy. One beaming father picked his daughter up and swung her around in the air.
They hadn’t seen each other since 14 April 2014, when militants snatched 270 schoolgirls from their dormitories in northeast Nigeria.
“I’m feeling very happy, I was dancing with her, she’s very happy,” said Yakubu Nkeki, whose niece Maimuna — who he had raised as his own child — was among the 82 released.
“Everyone was dancing today, even the old ones, everyone was dancing,” said Nkeki.
“All of us had lost hope, we thought the girls would not be returned.”
Nkeki, who represents the Chibok parents, said that they would attend a church service with the girls on Sunday, before returning home early next week.
In the meantime the girls would stay in a government facility in Abuja where they are receiving therapy and vocational training.
Nigeria’s minister for women affairs, Aisha Alhassan has said that the government’s goal is to have all the rescued Chibok girls back in school by September.
The group of 82 girls was released in May in exchange for five insurgent commanders following months of negotiations brokered by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Twenty-one of their classmates were freed in October last year, while three others had previously been found or escaped.
The Federal government has said it is still in talks to release the remaining 113 girls in captivity.
In a statement the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,said the group of 82 girls had also been reunited with 24 others, who were rescued by the Federal Government last year.
Minister of Women’s affairs, Aisha Alhassan said “the children are being rehabilitated and we believe that in due course they will be properly aligned with their families.
“Intensive medical attention is being administered and as soon as they are done, they will be enrolled into a remedial programme’’.
Alhasan also disclosed that the 24 others who were rescued last year were undergoing psycho-social counselling and remedial programmes preparatory to their enrolment in school next academic session.
“For the 21 and three that were earlier released, I wish to inform us that their psycho-social counselling is still in progress and of course they have started remedial classes.
“They are being taught five subjects, which is designed with a view to getting them back to school come the next school session, which is in September this year.
“They will be settled in various schools and I am sure they will continue their education from there,’’ she said.
The Minister gave assurance of the Federal Government’s commitment to rescue the remaining girls in captivity. She also expressed appreciation to all those involved in the rescue mission.
So far, 106 Chibok school girls, out of the 219 captured on the night of April 14, 2014, have been rescued.