Freed Chibok girls wait to return home

UNDERGOING COUNSELLING: Some of the recently released girls from Chibok in Abuja, Nigeria
Picture: AFP

Eighty-two Nigerian schoolgirls who were released by the Boko Haram militant group after being held in captivity for more than three years, faced a wait to be reunited with their families, an elder in the town of Chibok said yesterday.

Abducted Chibok Girls Parents’ group head Yakubu Nkeki said parents of the girls would only be able to see them once the government had given its approval.

“This may take some time, as the girls are now undergoing medical and mental evaluation to ensure they are in the best of [health],” Nkeki said.

“We don’t mind waiting . . . their health and wellbeing is paramount to us, and such evaluation takes time, especially with such a huge number of girls.”

The 82 were released on Saturday after months of talks, in exchange for a number of suspected Islamist militant fighters in government custody.

Boko Haram seized a total of 276 girls from the Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, in April 2014, triggering global condemnation.

Fifty-seven escaped in the hours that followed and of the 219 who remained hostage, 21 were released in a deal in October last year, and three others have been found.

Nkeki said he had met the 82, including his niece, whom he said was in good condition and in high spirits.

He said he had established that all of those released were from the Chibok school.

On Saturday, one of the released girls was seen on crutches and another with her arm in a sling.

Nkeki said seven of the 21 pupils freed previously had shrapnel wounds, and required surgical treatment.

Presidency spokesman Garba Shehu gave an indication of the potential difficulties facing the 82 girls by disclosing that one girl had refused to leave.

She had declined to be part of the release deal because she had married a Boko Haram fighter. Analysts said it was likely others could have developed sympathies for their captors over time.

Mausi Segun, from Human Rights Watch in Nigeria, said the released girls would likely have to deal with issues such as their abduction, the effects of conflict and their prolonged isolation.

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