News: FG Releases Proof Of Efforts To Secure Release Of Chibok Girls

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The Federal Government has released proof of its efforts to secure the release of the Chibok girls, who were abducted from their school in April 2014 by Boko Haram, confirming President
Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the safe
return of the girls.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Friday, September 16th, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the efforts included swap arrangements dating back to July 2015 which, however, failed for various reasons,
including last-minute issuance of a new set of demands by Boko Haram elements.

He said that in spite of the failure of the past swap
agreements, the government and the security agencies have not relented in the bid to ensurethat the Chibok girls are released safely, in line
with the mandate given by the President who,
upon the assumption of office, directed security agencies to urgently fashion out strategies to.trace, locate and ensure the safe and successful release of the Chibok girls.

Giving details of the first swap agreement, which was the most promising, Alhaji Mohammed said it
failed in the last minute because Boko Haram
decided to make a new set of demands, even after
all arrangements had been made to exchange
some Boko Haram fighters for the girls.

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. This was difficult to accept, but
appropriate security agencies had to again inform Mr. President o 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. 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. 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,”
he said.

The Minister also gave the details of two more
swap attempts that were made following the
failure of the first agreement.

“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. 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,” he said, assuring that in spite of the failures, negotiation
continued on new modalities to secure the release of the girls.

The Minister said since the beginning of 2016, the
security agencies have not only remained committed but have also taken the lead to resolve the Chibok girls’ issue, in spite of the current division among members of the terrorist group, which has seriously affected the efforts

He commended the security agencies whom, he
said, have sacrificed their time and energy, with
some even paying the supreme price while
fighting for the safe release of the girls, disclosing
that many friendly countries and organizations
have equally been very forthcoming in providing their human and technological resources to assist
in the process. Addressing the parents and
relatives of the Chibok girls, Alhaji Mohammed
said:

“We are with you; we feel your pains and shall not relent until we succeed in bringing
home our girls and every other citize abducted by the group.”

He also appealed to all those who have shown
concern in resolving this matter” to continue to
trust the efforts of Government to deal with the
situation.

Segun Adeyemi
SA to Hon Minister of Information and Culture 0

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