President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his administration’s readiness to negotiate the release of the over 200 girls abducted in their school in Chibok, Borno State in 2014, including exchanging them with Boko Haram detainees.
He however said his administration would only enter into discussions on the girls with the authentic leaders of the sect who are free to contact the Federal Government through internationally-recognised Non-Governmental Organisation.
According to a statement on Sunday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President made this known while granting press interview on the sidelines of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development holding in Nairobi, Kenya.
Buhari said his administration was ready to dialogue with authentic leaders of the sect who can convince the government that they are the ones holding the girls and they know their (the girls’) whereabouts.
He said, “I have made a couple of comments on the Chibok girls and it seems to me that much of it has been politicised.
“What we said is that the government which I preside over is prepared to talk to bona fide leaders of Boko Haram.
“If they do not want to talk to us directly, let them pick an internationally recognised Non-Governmental Organisation, convince them that they are holding the girls and that they want Nigeria to release a number of Boko Haram leaders in detention, which they are supposed to know.
“If they do it through the ‘modified leadership’ of Boko Haram and they talk with an internationally recognised NGO, then Nigeria will be prepared to discuss for their release.”
Buhari however said his administration would not waste time and resources in engaging “doubtful sources” claiming to know the whereabouts of the girls.
“We want those girls out and safe. The faster we can recover them and hand them over to their parents, the better for us,” he said.
The President maintained that the Boko Haram sect which pledged allegiance to ISIS, has been largely decimated by the Nigerian military with the support of the nation’s neighbours including Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin.
He also confirmed the division in the ranks of the sect as well as recent the recent injury allegedly sustained by the sect’s leader during an air raid.
Buhari said, “Some of the information about the division in Boko Haram is already in the press and I have read in the papers about the conflict in their leadership.
“The person known in Nigeria as their leader, we understand was edged out and the Nigerian members of Boko Haram started turning themselves to the Nigerian military.
“We learnt that in an air strike by the Nigeria Air Force he was wounded. Indeed their top hierarchy and lower cadre have a problem and we know this because when we came into power, they were holding 14 out of the 774 local governments in Nigeria. But now they are not holding any territory and they have split to small groups attacking soft targets.”