Be wary of prisoner swap offer, UK expert tells FG

One of the leading terror experts in the United Kingdom, Richard Barrett, has called on the Federal Government to be wary in releasing detained Boko Haram members capable of reviving its dwindling fortunes in exchange for the abducted Chibok girls.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently said his administration was ready to exchange the Boko Haram detainees for the over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the sect from their school in Chibok, Borno State in 2014.

Barrett, a former head of counter-terrorism for MI6 and ex-Director of Global Counter Terrorism Operations for the British Secret Intelligence Service, also expressed confidence in the ability of the Federal Government to be cautious in securing the release of the girls.

He said, ‘‘The government will also need to be certain that it is not releasing prisoners that will revive Boko Haram fortunes just at a time when the movement is split and the leader may be severely wounded. If the prisoners have been part of a programme of rehabilitation while in custody, then their reabsorption into the movement could help weaken it. I am sure the government will be very careful in securing the release of the Chibok girls to ensure that there are systems in place to help their rehabilitation.’’

In an email exchange with our correspondent, the counter-terrorism expert, who sits on the boards of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague and the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad among others, noted that many of the girls would have been traumatised by the experience.

“Many will have been seriously traumatised by their experience and find reconnecting with their families and picking up their old lives very difficult without support. Some may have formed close attachments to their Boko Haram ‘husbands,’ others will have been badly abused,” Barrett stated.

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