Authorities in Nigeria say they are working to secure the release of the last remaining student abducted from the Government Science and Technical College in February, who was not released with more than 100 of the Dapchi girls who returned early Wednesday morning.
President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to meet with the released girls on Friday and said he is grateful for their return. “I look forward to receiving them at the State House,” he said. The president added that it was disheartening that one of the girls, Leah Sharibu – reportedly the only Christian student in the group – was still held and left behind. Her classmates told Nigerian media she refused to convert to Islam.
“My heart goes out to Leah’s parents, who must watch other parents rejoice while their own daughter remains in captivity,” Buhari said. “It is my responsibility, under the Constitution of Nigeria, to protect all Nigerians—and I will always strive to do that. Leah will not be abandoned.”
The girls received medical care and remained under tight military security after successful negotiations for their release. Lai Mohammed, the Nigerian information minister, said it was facilitated through back-channel efforts and “the help of some friends of the country.” No ransoms were paid, he added.
“For the release to work, the government had a clear understanding that violence and confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls,” the spokesman said. Military operations were paused during the release window to ensure a free passage without loss of life, although five girls died during their ordeal.
Nigerians have been skeptical about the government’s success in securing the Dapchi girls’ release, as officials have long been criticized for their response to Boko Haram attacks on schools, including the 2017 attacks on University of Maiduguri and the high-profile Chibok kidnapping in 2014. President Muhammadu Buhari and his government often are accused of overstating their success in fighting extremists.
Image: Government of Nigeria file