Talks to free more Chibok girls continue Monday
- How 21 were released
- Only 104 willing to come back
- Girls to meet parents today
A second round of negotiation for the release of more Chibok school girls will open on Monday. Daily Trust leant yesterday.
Twenty one of girls 21 were released to the Federal Government on Tuesday night by the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Their release came after months of “delegate and complex negotiations,” sources said.
The Swiss Government, the Red Cross and a local humanitarian NGO based in Maiduguri, Borno State were said to have been involved.
However, the Swiss Government and the Red Cross immediately issued a disclaimer saying were not part of the deal.
Twenty one Chibok girls were handed over to Nigerian authorities around 3am yesterday, at Kumshe, a village few kilometres from Banki, in Borno State.
It was gathered that representatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) and a local NGO based in Maiduguri handled the last leg of deal.
They were flown in a chopper from Maiduguri to Kumshe where they met with Shekau’s representatives and received the girls.
It was gathered the Swiss Government and Red Cross had to distanced themselves so that they are not seen publically to have been involved because international convention prohibits negotiating with terrorists organizations.
Defence Headquarters also yesterday said it was not aware of any deal in respect of the Chibok girls’ release but sources said the Nigerian Army, Air Force and Navy had to distance themselves in line with international standard for the politicians to take the whole credit.
Sources close to the deal said the negotiation was sealed after more than eighteen months of failed attempts because Shekau kept changing his demands.
However, following the shaft division in the group when the Islamic State disowned Shekau, the Boko Haram leader “softened his demands”, a development that led to the release of the girls.
Prove of Life
One of the sources close to the deal told Daily Trust that the Boko Haram and some of the Shura members in his camp agreed to release only 20 of the Chibok girls “at the first instance” and another set would be set free after further discussion.
He said, “There were several attempts but we succeeded in striking the deal few days ago. It was Shekau that decided that yesterday (Thursday) should be the day that the girls would be released and gave the designated place.
“He was not there himself, he only sent his representatives and instead of bringing 20 girls, they came with 21.”
It was ransom not swap
Another source said “a huge ransom” was paid for the release of the girls but declined to say how much was paid.
“The money was taken to the point of the exchange but no Boko Haram commander in the custody of Nigerian authorities was released,” he said.
He said the Boko Haram commanders that came from the bushes were also ready for any eventuality.
“They were adequately prepared, in case they would be betrayed but as you know, the negotiation was done based on trust and you know that the Swiss government will not do anything that will jeopardize its long standing respect as a country that is amenable to negotiations rather than force.
“On the other hand, the Boko Haram leaders have absolute faith in the local humanitarian NGO,” he said.
Only 104 girls willing to return
It was also learnt that of the 200 Chibok girls in the hands of the insurgents, some have actually died as a result of military operations and natural causes.
However, among those that were alive, only 104 are willing to return to their parents while the rest said they are not interested in coming back, our sources said.
“The 21 that returned were among the 104. The rest said they have ‘accepted Islam’ and have already gotten married to some Boko Haram commanders and leaders.
“And during the negotiation, Shekau said he will not compel any of the girls to renounce their new found religion and love,” he said.
B/Haram in custody reluctant to return to Shekau
Like some of the Chibok girls that do not want to return, Daily Trust gathered that most of the Boko Haram commanders in custody of Nigerian government were reluctant to go back to Shekau.
According to sources, while Shekau had persistently called for the release of his fighters as condition for the release of the girls, he was told during the recent negotiation process that the fighters were not willing to go back to the bushes.
“It was based on this that he agreed to collect ransom,” a source said.
It was gathered that the Boko Haram fighters in custody are afraid that Shekau may not likely trust them any longer because of their “long stay” outside his reach, and may therefore execute them.
Another source said some of them have been “de-radicalized” while in custody and therefore not willing to go back to fighting.
“In fact, the reason why some of the Boko Haram commanders in custody could not be released to rejoin their families is because of fear of stereotype by the larger society.
“They have been de-radicalized after they were subjected to superior argument by clerics deployed by government while in custody,” he said.
About 276 girls were abducted on April 14, 2014 during a night raid by Boko Haram militants at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in southern part of Borno State.
About 57 of the girls escaped while they were being ferried into the Sambisa forest on the night of the abduction. One l girl was rescued in April this year.
What Presidency said
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who confirmed the release of the 21 girls in a statement yesterday said that the Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Malam Lawal Daura, had briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the development.
According to Shehu, “The release of the girls, in a limited number, is the outcome of negotiations between the administration and the Boko Haram brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government.”
He said the negotiations would continue.
He said Buhari welcomed the release of the girls but cautioned Nigerians to be mindful of the fact that more than 30,000 fellow citizens were killed via terrorism.
No swap deal with Boko Haram – Lai Mohammed
However at a press briefing yesterday, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammad, denied that the Federal Government entered into a swap deal with Boko Haram before the release of 21 Chibok school girls.
The Minister described the release of the girls as a ‘negotiated release’ rather than a ‘swap deal.’
Speaking to newsmen at the ministry of culture, yesterday in Abuja, the minister said “We can confirm that 21 of the girls were released safely, to us by 5.30 this Thursday morning and they were flown to Kaduna from the location of their release.”
He said: “This is the most glaring manifestation to date of the unwavering commitment of Mr. President to secure the safe release of the girls and reunite them with their families.
“It is also a result of the round-the-clock efforts by the Administration to put a closure to the sad issue of the kidnap of the girls.
“We expect the released girls to land in Abuja shortly. Ahead of their arrival, we have assembled a team of medical doctors, psychologists, social workers, trauma experts, to properly examine the girls.
“As we have always said, we have been working on the safe release of the girls and following all the leads available. In this instance, the moment we had a credible lead, Mr President gave the green-light to the DSS to pursue it.
“We can confirm that the DSS pursued the lead in collaboration with a friendly European country and a renowned international humanitarian organization. The DSS was supported by the military,” he said.
He added that it is a major step in confidence-building between government and the Boko Haram leadership on the issue of the Chibok Girls.
He thanked Nigerians for their support and for never losing confidence in the ability of President Muhammadu Buhari to secure the safe release of the Chibok Girls.
Answering questions from reporters Mohammed denied reports that the negotiated release was paid for, noting that “I am not aware of any monetary transactions.”
He added that the release is significant because confidence has been established in both the leadership of Boko Haram and Nigerian.
“These negotiations are very delicate and bearing in mind that we still have more girls in captivity, we must not do anything that will jeopardize the confidence building that is currently going on,” he said
Yesterday, Thursday was 913 days since the girls were taken away.
Government, security and other reliable sources told Daily Trust that a helicopter brought the 21 Chibok school girls to the Nigeria air force base in Maiduguri on Wednesday.
An aircraft belonging to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) took them to Abuja yesterday morning.
BringBackOurGirls, Amnesty, others hail rescue
The bring back our girls campaigners said they were pleased with the coming back of the 21 girls.
In a statement signed by Aisha Yesufu and Oby Ezekwesili, the group said, “we take this opportunity to salute the work of our security services at the front lines – the commitment, resilience and tireless efforts of our members of the Multi-national Joint Task Force and the civilian JTF.
“Following this development, we trust that our government will continue to work to keep the safety, security, and well-being of the other girls a high priority.”
Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Regional Advocacy Director called on government to protect the privacy of the girls.
“It is vital now that they receive adequate physical and psychosocial counselling and support so that they can fully reintegrate in their communities.
Also, the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume who represent Borno South where the girls were abducted described the release as a very pleasant news.
Via Daily Trust