After a secret negotiation, Boko Haram has agreed to release some of the abducted 219 Chibok girls, The Nation learnt yesterday.
The sect has listed 18 of its key members, who it said should be freed from detention in exchange for the girls.
But there was a snag last night because while the government wanted freedom for all the 219 Government Secondary School, Chibok girls, the sect said it would free only 30. The girls have been in captivity for 149 days.
Boko Haram sent the list of its commanders and the 30 girls to be swapped to a minister, who is also a lawyer, an elderstatesman and a key facilitator of peace with the sect, Comrade Shehu Sani, who is also the President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, according to sources.
The list, it was learnt, was sent after secret talks between a government delegation and a Boko Haram commander, who is being detained in Kuje Prison in Abuja. But there was no confirmation of this last night.
According the sources, the delegation, whose membership was kept under wrap, discussed with the commander, who is simply described as Umar.
One of the sources said: “Some top officials met with Umar about two weeks ago in Kuje Prison to discuss issues connected to the fate of the Chibok girls.
“We heard some inmates sharing this information that the sect might swap the girls with Umar and others. But all the details are still secret because Umar keeps to himself a lot.”
But another source said: “The delegation had a fruitful negotiation with Umar, who is one of the highly-rated commanders of Boko Haram. The group assured Umar of a swap and he has been looking forward to it.
“The sect has given a list of 18 of its members to be swapped with the abducted Chibok girls.”
It was, however, gathered that the fresh negotiation has suffered a little setback because Boko Haram has agreed to set free only 30 of the remaining 219 girls in its custody.
The government has offered to release the 18 key Boko Haram leaders/ members only on the condition that all the Chibok girls will be freed.
Some security agents are said to have given “cautious advice” to the government when there was “no full assurance that all the girls will be released”.
“So, technically, the release of 30 girls was unacceptable to the government based on the advice of some security agents,” another source said, adding:
“You can see why Nigerians should stop blaming Boko Haram from continuously keeping these girls in captivity. What is of concern now is to get even these 30 girls out to prove to the whole world that they are alive.”
Sani simply said last night: “No comment.”
Earlier in May, Sani explained why he and some Boko Haram contacts had audience with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta.
He said the session was meant to open a new channel for dialogue with the sect to rescue the girls.
He said: “The meeting in Abeokuta was aimed at repackaging and salvaging the dialogue option.”
It was not immediately clear if the latest talks had any connection with the repackaging or not.
The Chairman of the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on the abduction of Chibok girls, Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo, had on July 22 said the incident was real, contrary to misinterpretation in some quarters.
He also said 276 pupils were abducted, but 219 were unaccounted for, as at the time of submitting the report.
He said 57 of the abducted pupils had been reunited with their families after escaping from the sect.
Gen. Sabo, who made the disclosures in an address at the presentation of the committee’s report to the President, said 119 pupils escaped from the school premises before the insurgents took away their classmates.”[The Nation]