President Muhammadu Buhari says the Nigerian government has started negotiations with members of the Boko Haram sect, with the view to securing the release of the over 200 school girls kidnapped in Chibok, Borno State.
The President made the statement while responding to questions from members of the Nigerian community in France under the auspices of Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation (NIDO).
He said his administration was worried by the continued stay of the girls in the hands of their captors and was working tirelessly to get them release.
The girls were abducted from their school’s dormitory in the north-eastern state on April 14 by members of the Boko Haram sect.
President Buhari stated that the unfortunate incident had attracted global attention and sympathy within Nigeria which the government could not fold its arms to watch.
“The issue of Chibok girls has occupied our minds and because of the international attention it drew and the sympathy throughout the country and the world, the government is negotiating with some of the Boko Haram leadership,” he said.
Terrorists’ Unacceptable Demand
President Buhari noted that the government had to first establish genuine members of the sect so that it would not make the mistake of engaging the wrong persons.
“It is a very sensitive development in the sense that; first, we have to establish; are they genuine leaders of the Boko Haram? That is number one. Number two, what are their terms? The first impression we had was not very encouraging,” he further stated
The President said one of the conditions given by the group was to release one of its members who had been strategic in developing Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs), a demand that the government would not accept.
“They wanted us to release one of their leaders who is a strategic person in developing and making Improvised IEDs that is causing a lot of havoc in the country by blowing people in Churches, Mosque, market places, motor parks and other places. But it is very important that if we are going to talk to anybody, we have to know how much he is worth.
“Let them bring all the girls and then, we will be prepared to negotiate, I will allow them to come back to Nigeria or to be absolved in the community. We have to be very careful, the concern we have for the Chibok girls, one only imagine if they got a daughter there between 14 and 18 and for more than one and a half years, a lot of the parents who have died would rather see the graves of their daughters rather than the condition they imagine they are in.
“This has drawn a lot of sympathy though out the world, that is why this government is getting very hard in negotiating and getting the balance of those who are alive,” he emphasized.
President Buhari assured the gathering that his administration was doing everything possible to improve on the state of the economy through provision of infrastructure in critical sectors.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, had in July this year confirmed the willingness of government to engage the sect if they were ready.
President Buhari also assured the Nigerian community that his government would revitalise the economy and restore the glory days of Nigeria.
Some members who fielded questions requested the president to factor in the sufferings of the disabled in the Country just as they also asked to be accorded voting rights during elections.