82 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are reunited with their families, after trade for 5 Boko Haram fighters

By PADDY DINHAM FOR MAILONLINE

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Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls Abducted by Boko Haram

82 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram have been released after more than three years in captivity.
They are the largest group yet to be released after years of tense negotiations between the government and the terrorist group, a Nigerian government spokesman said. Later government statements indicated that the girls were released in exchange for the government release of five Boko Haram fighters.
The girls were among about 220 students abducted from a secondary school in the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014, sparking a global campaign #bringbackourgirls supported by then-U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, and a host of other celebrities.
· Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, said he was told of the release by the Bring Back Our Girls pressure group and an official in Maiduguri. He added: ‘This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released.’
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Bring Back Our Girls said it was awaiting an official statement but added: ‘Our hopes and expectations are high as we look forward to this news being true and confirmed.’
Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok on the evening of April 14, 2014 and kidnapped 276 girls. Fifty-seven managed to escape in the hours that followed but the remaining 219 were held by the group.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed in a video message that they had converted to Islam. The kidnapping brought the insurgency to world attention, triggering global outrage that galvanized support across the globe.
21 Chibok girls were released in October in a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Red Cross, while a handful of others have escaped or been rescued. However, a large number of the girls are still missing.
Last month President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that the government was ‘in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed’.
The girls were taken from a school in Chibok in the remote northeastern Borno state where Boko Haram has waged an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state that has killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people.

Nigerians put the brakes on superhighway cutting through rainforest

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Ekuri woman protesting superhighway

(TriceEdneyWire.com/GIN) – Bulldozers approaching the communities of the southern state of Cross River, with orders to raze up to a million homes and cut down an ancient tropical rainforest, were stopped in their tracks as an environmental impact statement for a proposed superhighway was rejected by officials.
As conceived, the roadway would link northern Nigeria to a proposed deep seaport in the south, covering 162 miles and displacing along the way some 180 indigenous communities, a national park and adjoining forest reserves that are home to some of the country’s most endangered species.
But this week, at a public hearing with government ministers and stakeholders, the Minister of the Environment admitted the project could not go forward. “The EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) is not of standard, it is too primary and does not qualify as a working document for such an international project,” Minister Ibrahim Jibrin was reported to say.
The so-called Cross River Superhighway, the brainchild of the state’s governor, Ben Ayade, has been on the drawing board for years. Two years ago it was announced that the “much anticipated construction” was “on course” and that President Muhammadu Buhari would be performing groundbreaking ceremonies Sept. 21, 2015.
The roadway would have cut through several protected areas such as the Cross River National Park, Ukpon River Forest Reserve, Cross River South Forest Reserve, Afi River Forest Reserve and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary – home to various threatened species, including Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, drills, Preuss’s red colobus monkeys, slender-snouted crocodiles and African gray parrots, among others.
Among the impacted communities is the Ekuri, whose conservation skills were recognized by the U.N. Development Program with a Equator Initiative Award for protecting biodiversity and reducing poverty.
Ekuri leaders say they supported the highway project at first, believing it would bring better transportation and greater economic opportunities to their people. But in a letter to the governor of Cross River State sent Feb. 7, the leaders withdrew their support, calling the project “a land grab in the guise of a Super Highway.”
Ekuri communities manage some 83,000 acres of community-owned forest – one of the largest in West Africa. “We require schools, water, electricity but not the kind of road that will take our forest away,” village leaders Stephen Oji and Abel Egbe told Premium Times news.