Following the release of 82 Chibok school girls, indications have emerged that the Federal Government will initiate fresh talks on how to end suicide missions with the Abubakar Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram and ensure return of normalcy to communities in the North-eastern part of the country.
Some of the 82 released Chibok schoolgirls during the presentation of drugs to them by the Minster of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, at the Directorate of State Service Hospital, in Abuja on Monda Part of the talks is to also free more girls still trapped in the sect’s custody.
This comes as Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo said yesterday that the government will step up welfare packages for the victims as more details of how the Federal Government negotiated release of the 82 Chibok school girls with the leadership of the Boko Haram sect emerged, last night.
A top source close to the deal, told Vanguard that the entire negotiation was done with the Abubakar Shekau faction of the sect, holed up in remote areas of the N-East.
Although there were claims last week that Shekau had been fatally wounded by the military and one of his commanders killed in a deadly offensive, the top source confirmed to Vanguard that Shekau was fully involved in deliberations for release of the school girls. The official said: “We actually met and discussed the terms of the release of the girls and the commanders with the Shekau faction and he was fully involved in all the stages of the deliberations.
What we did this time around was direct swap, which did not involve the payment of ransom as was earlier contemplated. “I can confirm to you that no fewer than five top commanders of Boko Haram were freed in exchange for the 82 girls and I think that it was a very good bargain with the sect’s leadership. Once that number was agreed upon, the five commanders were taken to an agreed location inside the forest where they were exchanged directly with the girls, on Saturday. That was how the whole thing was done.
“It was a tedious and daring process but we had to do it.” The source revealed that apart from the Chibok girls, there were thousands of other Nigerian women still trapped in the enclave of Boko Haram terrorists who must be rescued.
He said the Federal Government and the sect leadership had agreed to open discussions on how to free all the girls in the custody of Boko Haram and end atrocities and hostilities orchestrated by the terrorists. We have also agreed to begin talks on how to end suicide missions by the terrorists so as to ensure the return of normalcy to communities in the North-eastern part of the country.’’
No need to worry over insurgents swapped with Chibok girls – Adesina
Meanwhile, Mr. Femi Adesina, spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari, has picked holes in criticisms over swapping of the 82 girls with five Boko Haram commanders. Speaking on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, while responding to security concerns over release of the Boko Haram suspects, he said though there are pockets of attacks in the North-East, the region is securely under the control of the security agencies. “When there is ability and capacity to ensure security there is no need to worry.
The North-East is under the effective control of the security agencies. I know there are pockets of attacks here and there but in terms of whether the area is secure, the answer is yes. We know it is secure.” He described the recent attacks carried out by the insurgents as the “last kicks of a dying horse”. “This is a conjecture and there is no truth in it, that was the last kick of a dying horse, that was what you saw,” Adesina said. “There are factions. I’m sure when those 21 girls were released, a faction must have been pissed and they decided to strike with some ferocity after that.”
Asked why the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement has not been part of the rehabilitation process of the girls, Adesina said: “The rehabilitation is government responsibility. But that does not mean that non-governmental organizations can’t be involved. I don’t think BBOG is poised for that. That is not why they are set up. “BBOG from inception has been doing a very good job and till now they are still doing a good job. Let’s give them kudos for what they have done but let them also stay within the ambit of what they were set up to do.”
Swap deal, setback in insurgency war — PDP
The Ahmed Makarfi faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had described the swap deal as a setback to the fight against insurgency. In a statement, Dayo Adeyeye, spokesman of the faction, said their release is an opportunity for them to resume attacks on the society. The spokesman said many of them will recruit members that would be used as suicide bombers. “While we welcome the release of the girls, we do not think that exchanging innocent girls for hardened criminals like the terrorists is the right approach,” Adeyeye said in a statement. “The release of the terrorists is a setback for the war on insurgency. Their release is tantamount to releasing them to resume their war against society. Many of them could find their ways back to the terrorists camps from where they could unleash terror against the country. The piecemeal release of the girls means the terrorists want to extract more concessions from the government which in the end can only prolong the insurgency.”
PDP faction’s statement inhuman — FG
Countering, the Federal Government, yesterday, described the PDP faction’s statement as indecent, inhuman and ill-timed.
In a statement issued by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the government said it is patently insensitive for any individual or organization to seek to douse, on the altar of politics, the universal joy that has greeted the release of the 82 girls – the highest number so far freed since their unfortunate abduction under the watch of the PDP over three years ago.
He said from the ill-advised statement, it is clear that the PDP, whose incompetence and cluelessness precipitated the Chibok girls crisis in the first instance, is not wishing and praying for it to end with the safe return of the abducted girls.
‘’In his inaugural address, President Muhammadu Buhari said the Administration cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls. He also said this government will do all it can to rescue them alive.
‘’If that includes swapping some Boko Haram elements for the girls, so what? Will the PDP rather have the girls stay in perpetual captivity, just to prove a ludicrous point? Didn’t superpower United States engage in negotiations with the Taliban that led to the exchange of five Taliban fighters for US Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl in 2014? Didn’t Israel release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2011?”
FG to step up welfare packages for victims – Osinbajo
Meanwhile, Acting President Osinbajo has promised a review of the welfare packages to the victims of Boko Haram insurgency, especially Chibok community in Borno State.
He said that the current allocation for humanitarian services in the region was grossly inadequate to cater for the people whom he said had been traumatized.
Osinbajo spoke while receiving Borno elders led by the state governor, Kashim Shettima, who were on a thank-you visit to the Presidential Villa for the safe return of the 82 Chibok girls, yesterday night. He said that it was incumbent on the present Nigerian leaders to solve the contemporary challenges of the nation, adding that so much was needed to solve the humanitarian crisis in the North-East.
While acknowledging the interventions of the Swiss government and other international bodies involved in the negiations that led to the return of the girls, Osinbajo also agreed that President Buhari’s integrity and transparency are remarkable in international circles, a virtue he said attracted foreign assistance.
He said: “We thank God for bringing back our girls from captivity. For anyone who is a parent, it is just a very traumatic thing. We deserve to be excited that this is happening and we pray that the others will come back.
“What has happened is largely on the account of the international community. They believed in the integrity of the president. So many have sacrificed so much in the course of this insurgency. We don’t know how much it will cost us to restore what was lost. It is a challenge before us. I believe that we cannot wait for another generation of leaders to do it for us. We must resolve to face our challenges.
“We will take some time out to outline our priority and determine what it will cost us. We must do everything it takes to make sure that we hold ourselves to account for these children. That in my view is the whole essence of leadership,” he said.
Making his remarks earlier, Governor Shettima saluted Buhari for the safe return of the 82 girls.
“We are here principally to thank Mr. President, you and all senior adies to Mr. President, DSS D-G, the Army for bringing back our girls. President Buhari has the country at heart. We must as Nigerians thank God for Mr. President. There is no way international actors will continue to facilitate the negotiations if not for the integrity of the president.”
Also speaking, Governor of Zamfara State and Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum thanked the President for the effort which he said has liberated the country from insurgency.
“The efforts to bring 82 girls back to their parents were commendable”, he said. Also, Senator Ali Ndume from Bornor South solicited the vice president’s assistance to help raise more funds for the victims.
He said: “The humanitarian crisis is beyond anybody’s imagination. Every day, one child dies because of hunger. Children are out of school. We have millions of displaced persons. The whole of Borno State is not up to the National Assembly budget. The feeding of the children is not something Borno State government can carry alone.”
Tinubu lauds Buhari
Former Lagos State governor and All Progressives Congress, APC national stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians over the release of more of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls. In a statement by Tinubu Media Office yesterday, the former governor said: “The release of 82 Chibok schoolgirls demonstrates President Buhari’s unwavering commitment to freeing these and other innocent children from the cruel hand of Boko Haram and returning them to their families and community. “The freeing of the girls shows that President Buhari has kept his eye on the true objective. That is to reunite families and communities under the reign of peace and rule of justice so that northern Nigeria, and for that matter all Nigeria, may begin to rebuild in a way that brings a decent life and a taste of enduring prosperity to all Nigerians.”
In his reaction, Femi Falana, SAN, said: “The Muhammadu Buhari administration deserves the commendation of all men and women of goodwill for the successful release of another batch of 82 Chibok girls from the illegal custody of the satanic Boko Haram sect.
The release of the girls has rekindled hope for eventual freedom for all the abducted girls. The federal government should, therefore, intensify efforts and conclude the negotiations to secure freedom for the remaining abducted girls.”
Chibok girls: Buhari should be commended — Omokri
Also commending President Buhari for release of the girls, one of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s aides, Reno Omokri, said: ‘’Anybody that is not happy that 82 Chibok girls were released must be a monster whose humanity should be called into question.” [Vanguard]