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Boko Haram Stalls Prisoner Swap With Abducted Chibok Girls

Fresh facts have emerged on why President Muhammadu Buhari has remained steadfast on his position that the federal government would only negotiate for the release of the abducted Chibok girls with those who are directly holding them.

It has emerged that two recent attempts in recent weeks by the Federal Government for prisoners swap with the so called representative of the terror group may have reached a dead end as each time security officials arrive at designated locations with Boko Haram prisoners for the swap, Boko Haram representatives fail to show up as they are required to produce at least 50 verifiable Chibok girls for the first wave of the swap, security officials tell THISDAY.

Two hundred and seventy six girls were kidnapped from their school dormitory on April 14, 2014, and although 59 were able to escape, one recently, 217 have remained in captivity, sparking global outrage over their abduction.

THISDAY exclusively gathered that the federal government had through the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), in conjunction with the Directorate of the State Service (DSS), have in the last two weeks reached back channels agreements with some on the leadership of the sect on the venue, date and other logistics necessary to facilitate the swap of identified Boko Haram prisoners from specific prisons for the Chibok girls.

The source familiar with the back channel deal said at the appointed time and date, when all was set and the identified prisoners were moved to the location slated for the swap, neither the Boko Haram representatives, its commanders nor the Chibok girls were anywhere near the vicinity, prompting the federal government to return the Boko Haram prisoners to their prison cells.

Boko Haram’s inability to deliver the girls, the security source revealed is frustrating the federal government’s efforts to recover the girls.

Given its propensity for reneging on its promise, the source told THISDAY that the development informed the president’s insistence that, going forward, although the federal government remains open to negotiations with the sect for the release of the Chibok girls, his administration would only contemplate further negotiations with any group within the sect’s bona fide leadership who are in possession of the girls as that would have to provide proof of life, as well as verifiable guarantees through credible 3rd parties, including the Red Cross, that they know the whereabouts of the girls.

It is the same reason, the source added, that Buhari two days ago asked the sect to nominate an internationally recognised non-governmental organisation (NGO) that would negotiate on its behalf for the release of the girls.

The president, while addressing the issue in Nairobi, Kenya, on the sidelines of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), said: “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.”

The federal government, starting with the Goodluck Jonathan administration, has made a number of efforts to rescue the girls since 2014, but all attempts have failed to date.
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