Boko Haram released a video on Friday (12 May) claiming to show Chibok schoolgirls who refused to be rescued as part of last week’s swap deal that saw 82 girls freed by the Nigerian government.
In the three-minute video, a girl dressed in a veil and holding a gun says she is Maida Yakubu, one of 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014, reports Al Jazeera. Three other girls in veils sit behind her.
When asked by a man in the background why she doesn’t want to go back home to her parents, she replies: “The reason is that they live in the town of unbelief. We want them to accept Islam”.
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu disclosed after the 82 were released that one girl had refused to leave. She declined to be part of the release deal because she had married a Boko Haram fighter, Shehu said.
Boko Haram released a second video on the same day claiming to show five commanders that the Nigerian government freed in exchange for the 82.
Meanwhile, a week after their release, 81 of the 82 girls have still not met their families.
The only relative allowed to meet them was Yakubu Nkeki, chairman for the Chibok parents’ group and a primary school teacher who taught many of the girls, according to the Guardian. He spent three hours with his niece, Maimuna Usman, 20, and the other 81 in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, where they have been kept since their unexpected release on Sunday 7 May.
“Today is a wonderful day. I saw the girls and Maimuna. When she saw me, she ran and grabbed me and started crying. I was so overwhelmed,” said Nkeki on 8 May.
But his joy was tempered by concerns over when other families would get to meet the girls and women, although he said some parents had spoken to their daughters by phone.
“[The families] want them to receive all the care from the medical staff but they also want to be reunited with them as soon as they can. We’re waiting on the government to let us know when this will be possible.”
The Nigerian government has been criticised previously for the length of time it has taken for former hostages to be reunited with their families. The 21 girls freed in October are thought to be still in the capital, Abuja – 500 miles (800km) away – supposedly for schooling and security reasons, although a relative of one, Peter Joseph, has said that the girls were allowed to return to Chibok but had to stay in a government facility.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Joseph said: “I think there is something that the Federal Government does not want us to know and that is why they are keeping them away. Even when they [the schoolgirls] travelled to Chibok, they were not allowed to go to their houses… You can’t ask them about their experiences in Sambisa Forest. I mean, we don’t get it. Even now that 82 girls have been rescued, what has the government done about them? Up till today, the families have not met the [newly-freed] girls.”
A government official has said the girls were being kept away from their families and friends for security reasons.
In October 2016, following the release of the 21 girls, Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, said they were already at “phase two” of the negotiations [to release more girls], and “there are some promises we made also about the confidentiality of the entire exercise and we intend to keep them”.
An estimated 113 Chibok schoolgirls are unaccounted for.
Previous story, 7 May: 82 Chibok girls freed
The Nigerian government says it has secured the release of 82 of the nearly 300 girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok, northern Nigeria.
The government says it obtained the girls’ release in exchange for captured Boko Haram militants (Government of Nigeria).
“After lengthy negotiations, our security agencies have taken back these girls, in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities,” said the statement, issued by Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president for media and publicity.
— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) May 6, 2017
Speaking anonymously, a government official said five Boko Haram commanders were exchanged for the 82 kidnapped girls (Associated Press), though accounts of the number of militants involved in the exchange have differed.
The 82 girls were expected to arrive in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, late Sunday local time to reunite with families and meet Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari (Associated Press). A complete list of names of the released girls was not made public before their arrival; some parents assembled in Abuja not knowing if their daughter would be among those to get off the helicopters that had brought them from Maiduguri, the capital of the northern state of Borno.
The government later released the full list of names.
— ICRC Africa (@ICRC_Africa) May 7, 2017
Femi Adesina, a spokesman for Buhari, tweeted the official reception of the girls in the capital:
82 Chibok girls now in Abuja. Received on behalf of the President at the airport by Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari. Congrats Nigeria.
— Femi Adesina (@FemAdesina) May 7, 2017
Nearly 300 girls were taken from their school in April 2014. The nighttime raid by militants of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency touched off a global campaign under the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls to put pressure on the Buhari administration to free the girls.
“This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released.”
— Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor whose two daughters were among those kidnapped (Guardian)
Shehu Sani, a Nigerian senator who had been involved in previous negotiations with Boko Haram, said the girls were mostly “in good condition” (Deutsche Welle). One of the girls carried a baby boy less than 2 years old (Agence France Presse).
How was the release arranged?
Negotiations involved Nigeria’s military, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Citing “senior sources in Nigeria’s military,” the New York-based news website Sahara Reporters said military and Red Cross negotiators “flew the two detained Islamist commanders to Banki town in Borno State where they were handed over to a team of Boko Haram representatives. The Boko Haram team had, in turn, brought the 82 Chibok girls to the outskirts of Banki where a heavy contingent of Nigerian troops took custody of them” (Sahara Reporters).
The government’s press statement said the government of Switzerland and international NGOs also were involved in the negotiations.
How many girls were kidnapped? How many have been released?
Accounts have differed on the exact number of girls that originally were abducted in April 2014, and the number remaining in captivity. Most reports put the number of kidnapped at 276; others have said more than 300 girls were kidnapped initially, and that dozens of them managed to escape in the early hours and days of their abduction.
“Boko Haram had seized 276 female students from the Government Secondary School in Chibok on the night of April 14, 2014. About 57 of the girls managed to escape in the immediate aftermath of the abduction.” (This Day). If these numbers are accurate, the total number that remained in captivity would be 219.
“Authorities say 113 schoolgirls remain missing of the 276 girls abducted” (AP).
Released in 2016: 20. Released in 2017 to date: 82. Total released to date: 102. (President of the Nigerian Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki)
“We rejoice for the families. Our heart goes out to the 114 remaining in captivity” (Bring Back Our Girls Campaign).