According to THISDAY:
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday [Sept 15] disclosed that the federal government had opened up negotiations with members of the Boko Haram sect with a view to securing the release of over 200 female students kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State well over a year ago.
The president stated this yesterday while responding to questions from members of the Nigerian community in Paris, France under the auspices of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO). The president, however, said the sect had given some tough conditions for the release of the girls.
Buhari said one of the conditions was the terror group’s demand for the release of one of its members who is currently in government detention and was strategic in making improvised explosives devices (IEDs), a demand, he said his government would not accept.
Buhari said: “They want us to release one of their leaders who is a strategic person in developing and making IEDs that are causing a lot of havoc in the country by blowing up people in churches, mosques, market places, bus parks and other places.
“But it is very important that if we are going to talk to anybody, we have to know how much he is worth. Let them bring all the girls and then, we will be prepared to negotiate. I will allow them to come back to Nigeria or to be absorbed into the community.”
He assured the Nigerian community that his administration was worried about the continued stay of the girls in the hands of their captors and was working tirelessly to get them released. Buhari said that the unfortunate incident had attracted global attention and sympathy within and outside Nigeria, making it impossible for government to fold its arms.
“The issue of Chibok girls has occupied our minds and because of the international attention it has drawn and the sympathy throughout the country and the world, the government is negotiating with some of the Boko Haram leadership,” he added. The president also told his audience that the federal government was being very careful in its negotiations to determine if the group it is talking with was bona fide owing to disappointments in the past.
“The discussions at this stage are preliminary to determine if the group the government is talking to has the clout to deliver the girls as it claims. Government has been disappointed in the past so we have to tread with caution. “So we have to be very careful, the concern we have for the Chibok girls, one can only imagine if one has got a daughter there between 14 and 18 years and for more than one and a half years, a lot of the parents who have died would rather see the graves of their daughters rather the condition they imagine they are in.
“It is a very sensitive development in the sense that first we have to establish, are they genuine leaders of the Boko Haram. That is number one. Number two, what are their terms, the first impression we had was not very encouraging,” he said. He added that the global attention the kidnapping had attracted made it necessary for the government not to give in to the demands of Boko Haram. “That is why this government is very hard in negotiating and getting the balance of those who are alive,” he explained.
Buhari assured his audience that his administration was doing everything possible to improve the economy through provision of infrastructure in critical sectors.
The Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity Femi Adesina had in July this year confirmed the willingness of government to engage the sect if it was ready. Adesina had said the federal government was not ruling out negotiations with the sect if it would bring an end to the activities of the group.