Following the broadcast of the proof of life video showing 15 of the abducted Chibok girls by US cable news network, CNN on Wednesday, THISDAY has confirmed that the 219 girls who were kidnapped from their secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, exactly two years ago have been broken up into groups and are being offered by different Boko Haram cells to federal government negotiators in exchange for huge sums of money.
The release of the video has added pressure on the federal government to secure their release, with President Muhammadu Buhari promising the parents and relations of the missing girls yesterday that they will be rescued and returned to them. Sources in the intelligence agencies informed THISDAY yesterday that they were aware of the negotiations with the Islamist terror group, which have been stalled due to the ransoms demanded by different Boko Haram cells for the release of the girls in their possession.
One senior intelligence source said that in the course of negotiations for the girls’ release, one cell asked for $50 million in exchange for the 15 girls shown in the video on Wednesday, prompting the recording last December by the Boko Haram cell to show that the girls were still alive. Then yet another group offered another 10 girls for over 1 million euros, reinforcing intelligence reports that they had been broken up and dispersed to different cells,” he said.
He explained that the large ransoms demanded by different cells of Boko Haram further confirmed the federal government’s position that the terror group had been significantly degraded and has its back against the wall, hence the astronomical demands for money in exchange for the girls. The source added, however, that the federal government has refused to yield to the demands of the different cells, insisting that all 219 girls must be released at the same time.
He said the government was also against paying any form of ransom for their release, as the monies could be used by Boko Haram, which has been declared the deadliest extremist sect in the world, to rearm and continue their reign of violence and wanton killings in its bid to carve out a caliphate in the Northeast. “The group is deadly, cannot be trusted and is led by maniacal leaders. As such, the federal government has refused to yield to the demands of the cells. Their supply channels have more or less been cut off, so paying them such huge amounts for a handful of girls will only be giving them the ammunition to rearm and continue the deadly destruction and mayhem in the north,” he said.
Despite the lack of progress in securing the girls’ release, the president yesterday assured the parents and relations of the kidnapped schoolgirls that they will be rescued, adding that he frequently reflects on the ordeal of the captives in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists and shares in the pain of their continued absence from home.
A statement by his spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu, said on the second anniversary of the kidnap of the girls, Buhari affirmed that as a parent and leader of the country, he understood the torment, frustration and anxiety of the parents and would not spare any effort to ensure the safe return of the girls. The president said he continued to believe that with the total commitment of the federal government, Nigerian Armed Forces and security agencies, and the support of the international community, the girls would be eventually rescued.
Buhari noted that thousands of persons, mostly women and children, who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, had already been rescued and reunited with their families. The president said he shared the hope of the parents that the Chibok girls would ultimately be rescued and reunited with their families as well.
The president assured the parents that the federal government and security agencies would continue to explore all possible options for the safe return of the girls. Buhari urged the parents to continue to exercise patience and understanding as “the government works diligently to ensure that the girls are returned home unharmed”.