Corps member kidnapped by Boko Haram freed

Halima Umar (in white veil)
Halima Umar (in white veil)

A member of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), Halima Umar, who was abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in January, has been freed in a negotiated deal.

The deal between the insurgents and the Nigeria military is believed to have been midwived by Nigerian journalist, Ahmed Salkida.

Though the military would not give details of how the woman was rescued, the presence of Mr Salkida and civil society members suggested that the rescue was not through a military operation alone.

The released corps member was brought to the office of the Borno State deputy governor, at about 3.30 p.m., by a group of security officers led by the General Officer Commanding 7 Division, Abdulmalik Biu, a brigadier general.

Mr Salkida, a journalist who has cultivated sources among the Boko Haram, was seen in the company of security officers.

Khaltum Rabiu, the 23-year-old founder of Khaltum Foundation for Peace, a non-governmental organisation in Maiduguri, was also seen among the security officials that came to the deputy governor’s office with the rescued woman.

Both Messrs Salkida and Rabiu played active roles in the negotiation to free Ms Umar, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

Briefing the Deputy Governor, Umar Kadafur, the general said Ms Umar was rescued “through various collaborative efforts of the state government, security agencies and other critical stakeholders.”

“We are here, Your Excellency, to hand her over to the Borno State Government for onward reuniting her with her family.”

He said the collaboration of efforts that led to Ms Umar’s rescue was what the Nigeria military had been advocating.

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The deputy governor commended the military for “a job well done.”

He thanked all the security operatives for ensuring that the first effort of the new Borno State Government towards a non-violent solution to the Boko Haram conflict, “yields the desired results.”

Mr Kadafur said the rescue of Ms Umar had bolstered the commitment of the state government to securing the release of the remaining abducted Chibok schoolgirls still in captivity of the Boko Haram.

He said the visibly traumatised woman would have a medical examination and trauma counselling sessions before hanging her over to her family.

“We know she may have missed most parts of her NYSC programme, but the Borno State Government would do everything to ensure she gets the best supports she needs to reintegrate in the society, ” he said.

The rescued corp member who was emotional when asked to make comments simply thanked all those that assisted in her rescue.

“I thank God and the military that rescued me,” she said in tears.

Ms Umar was serving in the Borno State ministry of finance before she was kidnapped while on her way to Gwoza, her home town.

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