- We know where abducted girls are, says Badeh
By Lawrence Olaoye with agency reports
A deal for the release of some of the over 200 girls abducted from Government Girls Secondary Schools, Chibok, Borno state, was close to being secured with the Boko Haram Insurgents when President Goodluck Jonathan called it off, a BBC has revealed.
This is coming as the Nigerian military said it knows where the abducted schoolgirls are being held by the insurgents.
According to a report on the BBC, some of the girls were set to be freed in exchange for imprisoned members of the sect but for the disruption of the sudden disruption of the deal.
The BBC reported a source as revealing to it that government officials had held talks with Boko Haram to secure the release of the schoolgirls.
An intermediary met Boko Haram leaders earlier this month and visited the location in North-east Nigeria where the girls were being held, says the BBC’s Will Ross, in Abuja.
The report said the deal was almost reached to set some of the girls free in exchange for the release of 100 Boko Haram members being held in detention, but the government cancelled the planned agreement shortly before the swap was due to take place. “The reasons for the withdrawal are unclear”, the BBC report said.
It came just after Jonathan attended a meeting in Paris hosted by President Francois Hollande of France where leaders said they had agreed a “global and regional action plan” against Boko Haram.
The government had previously insisted that it would not agree to free Boko Haram members in return for the abducted girls.
But the information ministry had earlier said all options were on the table, after the group released a video of the girls earlier this month and suggested a swap.
The video showed 136 girls, and was interspersed with Abubakar Shekau explaining that they had “converted” to Islam.
But in a swift reaction to yesterday’s report by the BBC, Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Coordinator of the government’s Information Management Centre, Mr. Mike Omeri, denied the story.
When contacted by our reporter for reaction, he said he did not know the source of the BBC report because the sect has yet to appoint anyone to negotiate with the government on its behalf.
“We made a promise to give information to the masses on any development on the issue and so far, nobody has come forward to say he has been appointed to negotiate on their behalf.
“Since they have not appointed anyone to speak on their behalf, who will the government negotiate with? They have not approached the government for negotiation but as soon as they come forward, we will let Nigerians know,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, has said the security leadership in the country has located where the Boko Haram sect is holding the abducted girls.
Badeh also said the military would not use force to release the girls because of the need to prevent the insurgents from killing them.
The military chief spoke while receiving a solidarity rally organized by the Citizens Initiative for Security Awareness, led by its National Coordinator, Mr. Chidi Omeze, outside the Defence headquarters, yesterday in Abuja.
Badeh said the military had the capacity to bring back the abducted girls but would not use force for the crucial assignment.
He stressed that the military knew what it was doing and should be allowed to continue with its work.
The CDS said the military would not go and get the girls killed in the guise of bringing them back.
“We want our girls back; we want our girls back; we can do it, our military can do it but where they are held, can we go with force?
“If we go with force, what will happen? (they will kill them). So nobody should come and say the Nigerian military does not know what it is doing. We know what we are doing, we can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back. So we are working.
“The good news for the girls is that we know where they are but we cannot tell you, we cannot come and tell you military secrets here.
Just leave us alone, we are working, we would get the girls back”, he added.
The CDS was silent on the meaning of his declaration that the military would not use force to release the abducted girls when prodded by journalists.