President to insurgents: pick NGO as mediator
‘We’re for talks with Niger Delta militants’
The Federal Government will dialogue with bonafide leaders of Boko Haram to bring back the abducted Chibok girls, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
The “degraded” sect recently made an overture to the government for a swap of some of the girls with its detained fighters, in a video posted on Youtube.
In the video, the sect claimed that some of the girls had been married off and others killed in air raids. Following the release of the video, the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigners renewed their pressure on the government to push for the girls’ release.
It accused the Federal Government of lack of commitment and sincerity towards finding the girls. The group vowed to march on the Presidential Villa every 72 hours.
In an interview with reporters on the sideline of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in Nairobi, Kenya at the weekend, President Buhari said the government was ready to dialogue with bonafide leaders of the group who know the whereabouts of the girls.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as saying: ‘‘I have made a couple of comments on the Chibok girls and it seems to me that much of it has been politicised.
‘‘What we said is that the government which I preside over is prepared to talk to bonafide leaders of Boko Haram.
‘‘If they do not want to talk to us directly, let them pick an internationally recognised Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), 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.
‘‘If they do it through the ‘modified leadership’ of Boko Haram and they talk with an internationally recognised NGO, then Nigeria will be prepared to discuss for their release,’’ he said.
Buhari however warned that the Federal Government will not waste time and resources with “doubtful sources’’ claiming to know the whereabouts of the girls.
‘‘We want those girls out and safe. The faster we can recover them and hand them over to their parents, the better for us.’’ he added
The President maintained that the terror group, which pledged allegiance to ISIS, had been largely decimated by the gallant Nigerian military with the support of neighbours from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin.
He said: ‘‘Some of the information about the division in Boko Haram is already in the press and I have read in the papers about the conflict in their leadership.
‘‘The person known in Nigeria as their leader, we understand was edged out and the Nigerian members of Boko Haram started turning themselves to the Nigerian military.
‘‘We learnt that in an air strike by the Nigeria Air Force he was wounded. Indeed their top hierarchy and lower cadre have a problem and we know this because when we came into power, they were holding 14 out of the 774 local governments in Nigeria. But now they are not holding any territory and they have split to small groups attacking soft targets.”
On the militancy in the Niger Delta, the President said the Federal Government was open to dialogue to resolve all contending issues in the area.
‘‘We do not believe that they (the militants) have announced ceasefire. We are trying to understand them more. Who are their leaders and which areas do they operate and other relevant issues,’’ he said.