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Published On: Tue, May 13th, 2014

Abducted schoolgirls: Govt ready to talk with Boko Haram – Minister

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Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki
  • No negotiation with terrorists – Senate president

By Maryam Garba Hassan & Ikechukwu Okaforadi

Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, yesterday in Abuja, announced the Nigerian government’s readiness to negotiate the release of the over 200 abducted Chibok schoolgirls with the girls’ abductors, the Boko Haram sect.

However, in what appears to be a divergence of opinions within the federal government, Senate President David Mark countered the special duties minister’s position, saying in far away China that the government will not negotiate with terrorists.

Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, had in a video released on Monday indicated the sect’s readiness to free the abducted Chibok schoolgirls should the Nigerian government agree to release its members being detained in various facilities across the country.

The special duties minister, while expressing concern over Boko Haram’s tendency to renege on agreements, assured in an interview with Hausa service of the BBC monitored in Abuja, that the federal government is ready to parley with the sect for the release of the girls.

Turaki, who headed the Presidential Panel on Insecurity in Northern Nigeria, which tried to negotiate an end to the insurgency with the violent sect, emphasised however, that the government will only accept Boko Haram’s offer of prisoner swap with the hostages, if the sect names people who would mediate on its behalf with government representatives.

He revealed that during last year’s dialogue of his committee with the sect, government had obliged to the group’s request to release some of its members, “but yet, the violent campaign (of the group) did not cease. Rather, it (violence) even increased”.

The minister particularly recalled that “among those released last time was Shekau’s wife, and even his sister”, decrying further that the group failed to meet its own part of the bargain by ending the insurgency.

Turaki noted that Shekau knows many ways of reaching across to the government, including the media outlets he frequently uses to issue public statement, adding that, “even me here his (Shekau’s) people have my number, and so he knows how to reach us”.

But speaking to journalists in Beijing, China, yesterday, Senator Mark said that the federal government would not negotiate with terrorists under whatever circumstance.

He said negotiating with terrorists as being demanded Shekau, over the abducted girls, may not serve any good purpose but to further give them room to wreck more havoc on both the country and the citizens.

He expressed doubt that the terrorists would even fulfil any terms of agreement that may be entered into with them, with no platform of trust whatsoever.

“Nigeria will not negotiate with terrorists under any circumstance because you don’t negotiate with criminals which Boko Haram insurgents are.

“We are doing everything possible to bring the girls back safe and sound for their parents, without any negotiation with Boko Haram, as every effort towards that which cannot be disclosed in the public is being made to rescue the girls”, he stressed.

Mark who added that he was worried about the abduction of the girls like other Nigerians, disclosed further that at the beginning of the insurgency in 2010, government never knew that they had international network with other terror groups of the same mission.

This, he said, made government’s position then to be largely centred on dialogue since the insurgents were largely believed to be Nigerians.

According to him, “with the situation of things now, government has no any other option than to militarily wipe out the insurgents from the country’s territory through ongoing collaborations being made with other countries that had faced or facing similar challenges.

“The cooperation the nation needs from Nigerians now is for every one of them having vital information on the insurgents and their sponsors in and outside the country, to make it available to government through its relevant security outfits in the general interest of all”, he stressed.

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