Cardinal Okogie and two bishops called on the Nigerian government to focus on securing the release of the remaining Chibok girls

Three Catholic leaders welcomed the release of 21 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, and urged the Nigerian government to prioritise the release of the remaining girls.

276 girls were kidnapped from a Chibok secondary school in April 2014; 57 escaped the same day and one two years later. The release of 21 girls on 13 October was part of a deal brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss and Nigerian governments.

Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, retired archbishop of Lagos, said he had mixed feelings when he heard the news, because of the lengthy delay before their release and concerns about the girls’ welfare during their detainment.

“It is cheering news to the parents that they would be reunited with their abducted daughters,” he told Catholic News Service.

Cardinal Okogie blamed the past administration for not sanctioning the governor of the state under whose watch the incident happened then. He also said the nation’s school system was becoming “a laughing stock” following kidnappings that occurred recently in two different schools in Lagos state.

Bishop Matthew Ishaya Audu of Lafia told CNS that he was happy the girls were still alive.

“We pray that the remaining ones will be released very soon,” he said.

The bishop urged the government to arrange for counsellors and psychologists so the young women could be fully integrated into society.

Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaye of Ekiti said Nigerians should thank God for the girls’ release and echoed calls for the government to help rehabilitate them.

“Nigerians must come together to fight evil and savagery in our country,” he added.

Leaders of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign said they would continue to work until all the girls were released or rescued.