One of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 and who had the opportunity to be released on Saturday chose to stay with her husband, the spokesman for Nigeria’s president said Tuesday. Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said officials originally had been negotiating for the release of 83 girls, but one said she wanted to remain.
“One of the girls refused to join the released girls,” Shehu told The Associated Press. “She said, “I am happy where I am. I have a husband.” The other young women, held for more than three years, are in Abuja with government officials who are supervising their re-entry into society.
The government has published a list of the girls’ names, and parents in Chibok, some 900 kilometers northeast of the capital, are slowly learning if their daughters were among those freed. The girls were released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders, a government official said Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Neither the government nor Boko Haram, which has links to the Islamic State group, gave details about the exchange. The International Committee of the Red Cross helped negotiate the girls’ release along with the Swiss government.
Girls who escaped Boko Haram shortly after the 2014 mass kidnapping said some of their classmates had died from illness. Others did not want to come home because they’d been radicalized by their captors, they said. Human rights advocates also fear some of the girls have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings as part of the group’s insurgency.
Thousands of people have been killed and about 1.6 million driven from their homes during the eight-year insurgency by Boko Haram. But it was the mass kidnapping of 276 girls in April 2014 that horrified the world and brought the extremist group international attention.
The first group of 21 Chibok girls was freed in October. They have been in government care for medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation. Human rights groups have criticized the decision to keep them in custody in Abuja. More than 110 Chibok schoolgirls remain missing.
A group of United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday called on Nigeria’s government to ensure the girls’ rehabilitation and reintegration, saying release was only a first step in their recovery. “The government of Nigeria and other stakeholders must ensure that the services these girls need, including psycho-social and other health services and information on livelihood opportunities, as well as access to remedies, are available” said the group of special rapporteurs. “We hope these girls will be soon reunited with their loved ones.”
The group of experts also called on Nigeria and the international community not to forget about kidnap victims still held by Boko Haram, and to work toward their release.