Nigeria’s President Buhari tells freed Chibok girls ‘Welcome our dear girls’

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 08:50 GMT, May 8, 2017 |

A group of 82 girls held captive for three years by Islamist militants met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the capital Abuja on Sunday, May 7, a day after they were released in exchange for several militant commanders, officials said.

The girls were among a group of 270 schoolgirls kidnapped in April 2014 by the militant group Boko Haram, which has waged an eight-year-old insurgency to create an Islamist caliphate, killing thousands and forcing more than two million from their homes.

“I cannot express in a few words how happy I am to welcome our dear girls back to freedom,” Buhari told the girls at his residence, according to a statement by his office.

The 45-minute meeting was held shortly before Buhari left for London for a medical consultation amid concerns over his health, according to his spokesman Femi Adesina, who said the girls had now been “handed over to those who will supervise their rehabilitation”.

The government secured the release with mediation by the International Committee of the Red Cross. A military source said three Boko Haram commanders had been freed in an exchange, but declined to give further details.

Their meeting with the president apparently took place before they were reunited with their parents and relatives.

Aisha Yesufu of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign said the freed girls require rehabilitation and trauma counseling.

“It’s not just to bring them back home, we must ensure that they get the education they are supposed to have,” she said.

“It is time for them to be reunited with their families. Psychosocial therapy … there has to be rehabilitation. And at the end of the day, we want to have world leaders out of every one of them so that they can be what the terrorists did not want them to be.”