Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said his administration was ready to do everything within its reach to secure the release of the remaining girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno State on Apri 14, 2014.
While saying the Federal Government had reached out to their captors through intermediaries, the President said his administration was willing to bend backwards to ensure their safe return.
Buhari made the promise in a message to mark the third anniversary of the abduction carried out by members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
The message which he personally signed was made available to journalists by the Presidency’s media office.
He said his administration had had reason to celebrate the return of 24 of them and thousands of other Nigerians who were forcibly abducted by the terrorists.
He said being a parent himself, he was grateful to God that some of the girls were found alive and have been reunited with their families.
The President said, “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.
“My special appreciation goes 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.
“Our intelligence and security forces, who have aptly demonstrated their competence, are very much equal to the task and absolutely committed to the efforts to find and return the schoolgirls and others abducted by Boko Haram.
“I also thank Lake Chad Basin countries, friendly nations and international partners, who at various points in the last three years have offered their support for Nigeria.
“Like I have repeatedly said, the Federal Government is willing to bend over backwards to secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls. We have reached out to their captors, through local and international intermediaries, and we are ever ready to do everything within our means to ensure the safe release of all the girls.
“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 described the 2014 abduction of the girls as one of the worst crimes committed against Nigeria’s citizens.
He recalled that at the inception of his administration in May 2015, the 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.
He added that the menace of the group posed a great challenge to the resolve of his administration to implement the change agenda.
Buhari said that was why he pledged to reverse the situation, which constituted a threat to the sovereignty of the country.
He said his government was determined from the beginning to secure the release of the Chibok girls and others forcefully abducted from their homes and communities and retake the occupied territories.
This determination, he said, made his administration to give the necessary political and logistical backing which energised members of the 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.
Having secured some level of success, the President promised that no group will hold the country to ransom under his watch.
He urged all residents to remain vigilant and report suspicious movements around them to security agencies.
“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.
“Nigeria and indeed the entire world, must however, recognise that terrorism has no borders and remains a growing concern which calls for collective efforts to curtail.
” I, therefore, call on all Nigerians and residents in the country, to remain extra vigilant and 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,” the President promised.