The Federal Government has restated its willingness to negotiate with the Boko Haram to free the over 200 girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno State, in 2014.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday, reiterated government’s commitment to rescue the school girls abducted by terrorists on April 14, 2014.
Mohammed’s statements came a week after the Boko Haram released a video, where its leader, Abubakar Shekau threatened to attack more cities and vowed not to release the Chibok girls until his group’s members in detention are released.
Mohammed spoke yesterday on a live programme on Channels Television on Independence titled “Nigeria at 56: Recursive, Resilient, Rising.”
He said no group, local or international, could claim to have more stake or to be more committed to the rescue of the girls than the federal government.
He added that the issue of the rescue of the girls was a humanitarian one that everyone or group should be “passionate, but rational about”.
The minister said contrary to the position of some critics, government had robust counter-terrorism policy and had recorded significance success in fighting Boko Haram in the North-East.
He noted that the fact that the Chibok girls were yet to be rescued should not be a yardstick to write off the achievements of government in decimating the Boko Haram.
Mohammed recalled that upon assumption of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, many parts of the North-East were under the control of the Boko Haram and were not safe and accessible.
He said the situation “is not the same today as no part of the North-East region is under the control of the group.”
“The North-East is free now, students are returning to schools, all the towns and communities, hitherto, under the control of the terrorists have been liberated and those who fled their homes are gradually returning,” he said.
The minister also recalled that when the Buhari administration assumed power, it was 410 days after the Chibok girls were abducted without any effort to rescue them by the previous government.
He noted that in all cases of abduction, especially by terrorists, 24 hours was critical to ensuring prompt rescue. He added that the government in power then did not utilise the intelligence.
The minister said the present administration had thrice established links with the Boko Haram for the exchange of the abducted girls with the arrested members of the terrorist group.
He explained that on each occasion, the efforts were thwarted by either the link with the terrorist, fresh demands by Boko Haram or division in the camp of the terrorist group.
Mohammed said government had not foreclosed negotiation with the group on the release of the girls, but, it wanted to ensure that the link were genuine and credible.
He said government appreciated the efforts of the “Bring Back Our Girls” (BBOG) group, but noted “the administration is as concerned as they are and ready to work with them in ensuring the release of the girls.”
Oby Ezekwesili, one of the leaders of the BBOG, reiterated the position of the minister that 24 hours was critical in ensuring success or failure in cases of abduction by terrorists and added that the past administration failed in that regard.
Ezekwesili, however, said the BBOG group was disappointed that more than 900 days after the girls’ abduction, there was no tangible evidence or convincing plans by government on their release.
She said the group resumed its agitation with vigour to canvass citizens engagement in the release of the girls and ensure that government did not stay away from the parents of the girls.
She underscored the need for government to carry along the group in its rescue efforts and be consistent in its messages and briefings. The former minister pledged the support of the group to the government in ensuring a safe rescue of the abducted girls.