By CHRIS SULEIMAN, Abuja
The Federal Government has blamed the division in the camp of the Boko Haram insurgents as well as the inconsistency of the representatives of the terrorist group in the negotiation process towards the release of the abducted Chibok Girls for her inability to release the abducted school girls.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who made this known on Friday at a press conference in Abuja aimed at providing update on the abducted Chibok Girls.
According to him ” By 30th November, 2015 it was becoming glaring that the division amongst the group was more profound. This affected the swap process. By 10th December, 2015, another negotiation process was in place, but this failed to achieve results because of the varying demands by the group.
The Minister who faulted the effort of the previous administration whom he said were discussing the release of the abducted girls with several impostors who have not establish any links with the group keeping the abducted Chibok girls.
He said “Many persons or groups posing as negotiators actually had no veritable intelligence nor the reach to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls;
He added that ” Some informants or persons volunteering to be negotiators or facilitators saw and treated the girls’ fate and indeed the situation as a conduit to enrich themselves, thus making the whole thing a pecuniary venture.
Explaining the effort of the present administration towards rescuing the Girlds Lai Mohammed said “In this new bid, many offers ranging from credible, not credible to outright off-mark information came to the Government.
He said “Some international bodies and countries also provided leads. It was out of this that relevant security agencies were able to strike a chord. By the third week of July 2015, a contact group was in touch with credible assets who had the reach, and who attested to the fact that some of the Chibok girls were alive. Mr. President was then briefed of these assets and intelligence and he gave his assent for further negotiations on the Chibok girls.
Lai added that “Precisely on 17th July, 2015, the DSS opened negotiations process with the group holding the Chibok girls. However, in return for the release of some of these girls, the group also made some demands. These included the release of some of their fighters arrested including some involved in major terrorist actions, resulting in several fatalities, and others who were experts in manufacture of locally assembled explosives.
Speaking further he said “This was difficult to accept, but appropriate security agencies had to again inform Mr. President of these demands, and its viewed implications. Again Mr. President gave his assent believing that the overall release of these girls remains paramount and sacrosanct.
“Meanwhile, following the above development, Government and the security agencies had sufficient leverage to work out the modalities of the swap. These included creating the safe haven, or necessary place of swap and working out the logistic details. Based on this, the DSS availed other critical sister agencies of this new situation.
He said “Immediately, the Nigerian Army and the Air Force sent some specialists to commence a detailed arrangement for the swap. This was during the last week of July 2015 and 1st week of August 2015. The officers representing the various agencies worked out the logistic details, such as the number of persons to be swapped i.e. number of girls and detainees to be exchanged, the vehicles and aircraft, as well as safeguards, i.e. safety of the persons, including the location of the swap.
“When it was finally agreed by all parties, Mr. President was again informed that the preparations were concluded, and the first step for the swap would commence on 1st August, 2015. Mr. President robustly gave his approval.
Alhaji Lai further revealed that “On 4th August, 2015, the persons who were to be part of the swap arrangements and all others involved in the operation were transported to Maiduguri, Borno State. This team, with the lead facilitator, continued the contact with the group holding the Chibok girls. The Service was able to further prove to the group its sincerity, as it established communication contact between it and its detained members.
“All things were in place for the swap which was mutually agreed. Expectations were high. Unfortunately, after more than two (2) weeks of negotiation and bargains, the group, just at the dying moments, issued new set of demands, never bargained for or discussed by the group before the movement to Maiduguri. All this while, the security agencies waited patiently. This development stalled what would have been the first release process of the Chibok girls.
The Minister also said “It may be important to note that in spite of this setback, the government and the security agencies have not relented in the bid to ensure that the Chibok girls are released safely. By the month of November, precisely 13th November, 2015, another fresh negotiation process with the group was initiated. This time, there was the need to discuss a fresh component in other to avoid issues that had stalled the former arrangement.
“There were however some problems that many may not discern, but should be expected in this kind of situation. Some critical persons within the group who played such vital role in August, 2015 were discovered to be dead during combat action or as a result of the emerging rift amongst members of the group then. These two factors delayed the process. In spite of these, negotiation continued on new modalities.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed however, assured that “The Government and its security agencies remain committed to ensuring that the Chibok girls are safely released in fulfillment of the Presidential mandate. Let me emphasise that Government appreciates the resilience of Nigerians in the fight against insurgency and terrorism, and will continue to call on fellow Nigerians to hold that much is ahead and therefore support Mr. President’s resolve on this matter. I cannot end this without appealing to the parents and relatives of the Chibok girls. We are with you; we feel your pains and shall not relent until we succeed in bringing home our girls and every other citizen abducted by the group. It is important to appeal to all those who have shown concern in resolving this matter to continue to trust the efforts of Government to deal with the situation.