The Federal Government is still negotiating with Boko Haram for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls and other abductees, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Lai Mohammed said yesterday.
He spoke during a briefing following an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operation to the Sambisa forest.
“Negotiations for the release of the girls have never stopped. In a situation like this, we use carrot and stick approach.
“Even the success of the military also helped fast track the process of the negotiation for those who were released.
“The negotiation is complicated, delicate and changes from time to time, but we are still talking and we are near breakthrough,” he said.
The trip to Sambisa was organised for the leaders of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group to acquaint them with efforts by the military to find the Chibok girls and end the war on insurgency.
“This government has nothing to hide; that is why we have brought you here so you can have a first-hand experience. We want to let the world know what we have been doing not only to recover the girls but also to end the insurgency,” Mohammed said.
But the leader of the BBOG and former Minister of Education Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, said though the group had learnt some lessons about the workings of the military, its demand remained.
“We have learnt that the Nigerian Air Force is working to generate the information that supports the Army to ensure security of the theatre of war.
“By joining the NAF to do ISR day and night, we saw what it looks like to embark on a search for target like the abducted Chibok girls. It also helps to frame the question we have been asking. We leave here to say the Federal Government should be able to say what strategic decision should be taken.
“Negotiations led to the highest yield of 21 girls, four came back after the military raided their bases, that is they either escaped or were found after the raid.
“It becomes a strategic question. We will hold the Federal Government accountable to a decision on what options work better for our girls and others.
“The information has empowered and enriched our demand. The Minister of Information has given the assurance that 80 girls would be part of a batch based on negotiation we will keep asking for that,” she said.
The former minister also said knowing how important it is for the military to be equipped; the group will continue to call for the prosecution of all who have mismanaged military hardware funds.
“Imagine what would have happened if the whole money had been spent on buying the equipment. We are more empowered to demand sanctions.”
Mrs Ezekwezili praised the NAF on its innovative use of technology, saying it makes the efforts to be precise.
She also called for improved transparency in the conduct of the war on insurgency, saying for as long as the war was prosecuted as a propaganda mission, there will be criticism and cynicism.
She praised the “strong commitment” of the troops, saying the group had always been supportive of their efforts.
“As citizen-activists, we shall remain the voice. We will hold the government accountable to its promise to rescue the Chibok girls and others,” she said.
The BBOG leader also sought clarification on the capture of Camp Zairo. She said a proper understanding of Sambisa – the forest that was Boko haram’s stronghold – was necessary for Nigerians to put the capture of the Camp in perspectives. Mohammed described the capture of Camp Zairo as a strike at the heart of the insurgents. “When you strike Camp Zairo, you completely disorient the insurgents, but it does not mean the end of the campaign.”
by The Nation