As Nigeria marks the third anniversary of the abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls, President Muhammadu Buhari has said government was willing to bend over backwards to secure the release of the remaining girls.
In a message to mark the anniversary coming up on Friday, Buhari said that government had reached out to their captors, through local and international intermediaries.
The government was ever ready to do everything within its means to ensure the safe release of all the girls, Buhari said on Thursday in Abuja.
About 276 girls were abducted by the terrorists on April 14, 2014 at the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram.
No fewer than 50 of the girls escaped from their captors and 24 were released after negotiation by the government with the aid of International Red Cross and Swedish government.
“We have had reason to celebrate the return of twenty-four of them and thousands of other Nigerians who were forcibly abducted by the terrorists.
“I wish to reassure the parents of the Chibok girls, all well-meaning Nigerians, organisations and the international community that as a government, we are unrelenting on the issue of the safe return of our children.
“I trust God that soon, our collective efforts will be rewarded with the safe return of our schoolgirls to their families, friends and their communities,’’ Buhari said.
He sent his appreciation to the parents and families that have endured three years of agony and waiting for the return of their children.
“I feel what you feel. Your children are my children. On this solemn occasion, my appeal is that we must not lose hope on the return of our remaining schoolgirls.’’
As a parent, he said that he was eternally grateful to God that some of the girls were found alive and have been reunited with their families.
“Government is doing all within its powers to reintegrate the freed girls to normal life. Furthermore, Government is in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed.’’
The President said that Nigeria’s intelligence and security forces demonstrated their competence and were equal to the task and absolutely committed to the efforts to find and return the schoolgirls and others abducted by Boko Haram.
The abduction, he said, was one of the worst crimes committed against Nigeria.
“Upon the inception of this administration in May 2015, it will be recalled that this militant group occupied no fewer than 14 Local Government Areas in the North East of the country and posed a serious threat to other parts by unleashing fear and mayhem through the use of surprise and suicide bombing.
“The menace of this terrorist group was a great challenge to the resolve of our administration to implement the Change Agenda.
“We, therefore, pledged to reverse the situation, which constituted a threat to the sovereignty of the country.’’
The government, he explained, was determined to secure the release of the Chibok girls and others forcefully abducted from their homes and communities and retake the occupied territories.
The administration gave the necessary political and logistical backing which energised “gallant’’ members of our armed forces and other security agencies to overrun the headquarters of Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest and scatter the terrorists from their strong base.
“Today, the group has been degraded and is no longer in a position to mount any serious, coordinated attack, other than sporadic suicide attacks on soft targets.
“Even at that, their reach is very much confined to a small segment of the North East where they had previously held sway unchecked.’’
The world, he advised, should recognise that terrorism had no borders and remained a growing concern which needed collective efforts to curtail.
He appealed to all Nigerians and residents in the country to remain extra vigilant and to report any suspicious element or group to the security agencies.
“We cannot afford to let down our guards. Under my watch, no group will hold the country to ransom.’’
He thanked Lake Chad Basin countries, friendly nations and international partners, who at various points in the last three years have offered their support for Nigeria.