The Federal Government yesterday explained why the abducted Chibok girls have not been released, blaming it on distrust and division within the Boko Haram terrorist sect.
Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who made the disclosure in Abuja absolved the nation’s security agencies of thwarting the efforts by declaring Hajia Amina Wakil and Alhaji Ahmed Salkida, two persons who had assisted government to make contact with Boko Haram leaders, wanted.
Insisting that government was fully committed to rescuing the Chibok girls, he informed parents of the abducted school children, Bring Back Our Girls group and Nigerians generally that government fully appreciates their concern and that government was with them.
According to Mohammed, “The Government and its security agencies remain committed to ensuring that the Chibok girls are safely released in fulfillment of the presidential mandate.
“I appeal to the parents and relatives of the Chibok girls. We are with you; we feel your pains and shall not relent until we succeed in bringing home our girls and other citizens abducted by the group. It is important to appeal to all those who have shown concern in resolving this matter to continue to trust the efforts of government to deal with the situation.
He explained that it was in furtherance to this commitment that the DSS established a Special Tactical Unit to secure the release of the Chibok girls, but in the process, it was “observed that several persons or groups posing as negotiators actually had no veritable intelligence nor the reach to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls.
He said:“Some informants or persons volunteering to be negotiators or facilitators saw and treated the girls’ fate and indeed the situation as a conduit to enrich themselves, thus making the whole thing a pecuniary venture.
“As a result of the conflicting and partisan interests, issues were muddled up to the extent that reasonable and fruitful leads either failed or simply came too late for any useful action”.
According to the Minister, “the situation forced government to identify those with relevant intelligence on the groups holding the girls, as well as establish sources of contact in touch with the group, but the exercise was found not to be an easy task.
“On those holding the Chibok girls, there was also a high level of mistrust, as they too found many approaches or groups claiming to be in touch with them as false or unreliable.
“In this new bid, many offers ranging from credible, not credible to outright off-mark information came to the government. Some international bodies and countries also provided leads. It was out of this that relevant security agencies were able to strike a chord”.
He added that even on 17th July, 2015, when the DSS opened negotiations with the group holding the Chibok girls, the group demanded the release of some of their arrested fighters including some involved in major terrorist actions, and others who were experts in the manufacture of locally assembled explosives.
“This was difficult to accept, but appropriate security agencies had to again inform Mr. President of these demands, and its implications. Again Mr. President gave his assent believing that the overall release of these girls remains paramount and sacrosanct”.
He stated that even after working out the logistic details for the swap and making arrangement for the vehicles and aircraft, as well as extracting assurances that the swap would commence on 1st August, 2015, “the group, just at the dying moments, issued new set of demands, never bargained for or discussed by the group before the movement to Maiduguri.
“All this while, the security agencies waited patiently. This development stalled what would have been the first release process of the Chibok girls.
“It may be important to note that in spite of this setback, the government and the security agencies have not relented in the bid to ensure that the Chibok girls are released safely.
“Some critical persons within the group who played such vital role in August, 2015 were discovered to be dead during combat action or as a result of the emerging rift amongst members of the group then. These two factors delayed the process. In spite of these, negotiation continued on new modalities.
‘By 30th November, 2015 it was becoming glaring that the division amongst the group was more profound. This affected the swap process.
‘By 10th December, 2015, another negotiation process was in place, but this failed to achieve results because of the varying demands by the group.
In spite of the current division amongst members of the terrorist group, which has seriously affected efforts to release the girls, renewed efforts have commenced using our trusted assets and facilitators”.
He called on Nigerians to be patient as taking any untoward step could jeopardize the lives of the girls.