The Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, has explained on behalf of the federal Government, their intense efforts to release the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram at a press conference in Abuja Friday. Mohammed said the Federal Government is still working on the release of the girls and appealed to the parents of the Chibok girls and Nigerians to believe in the government’s ability to secure the release of the girls. In his words
“Precisely on July 17, 2015, the DSS opened the negotiation 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 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. “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 August 1, 2015. Mr. President robustly gave his approval.”
“On August 4, 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 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.”
“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 November 13, 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.”
“By November 30, 2015, it was becoming glaring that the division amongst the group was more profound. This affected the swap process. By December 10, 2015, another negotiation process was in place, but this failed to achieve results because of the varying demands by the group.”