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Published On: Thu, May 29th, 2014

Jonathan, army sing discordant tunes over release of Chibok girls

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Badeh and JonathanBy Lawrence Olaoye with agency reports

President Goodluck Jonathan and the Nigerian Army are apparently not on the same page on strategies to be employed in securing the release of over 200 girls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, abducted by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents last April 14.

While the Defence Chief, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, ruled out the possibility of employing military force to secure the release of the girls, the President rejected the offer of prisoner swap for the Boko Haram suspects.

Badeh had said recently that the authorities now knew the location of the abducted girls but insisted “We can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.”

The military chief may be speaking from experience as past efforts to free two foreign engineers, one a Briton and another an Italian, abducted by the insurgents in Sokoto in 2012 led to the death of the foreigners.

But a human rights activist close to mediators said a swap of detained extremists for the girls was negotiated a week ago but fell through because President Goodluck Jonathan refused to consider an exchange.

Britain’s Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, said two weeks ago that the Nigerian leader had told him categorically he would not consider a prisoner swap.

Community leader Pogu Bitrus of Chibok, the town from which the girls were abducted on April 14, according to reports, said authorities are speaking with “discordant voices” and the president appears under pressure to negotiate.

“The pressure is there if his own lieutenants are saying one (thing). Because if they cannot use force, the deduction is that there must be negotiation,” Bitrus said. “And if their commander-in-chief, the president, is saying that he will not negotiate, then they are not on the same page.”

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