President Muhammadu Buhari has said that one of the conditions given by Boko Haram for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls was for the Nigerian government to release one of the sect members with expertise in making Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the President stated this on Tuesday in Paris while responding to questions from members of the Nigerian community in France under the auspices of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO).
Buhari however said his government would not accept such a demand.
“They wanted us to release one of their leaders who is a strategic person in developing and making Improvised IEDs that is causing a lot of havoc in the country by blowing people in Churches, Mosques, market places, motor parks and other places,” he said.
He reiterated the administration’s readiness to negotiate – on certain conditions – with the terrorists for the release of the schoolgirls abducted since April 2014.
“The issue of Chibok girls has occupied our minds and because of the international attention it drew and the sympathy throughout the country and the world. The government is (looking into possibility of) negotiating with some of the Boko Haram leadership,” the president said.
Buhari, however, stated that government must first establish genuine members of the sect so that it would not make the mistake of engaging the wrong persons.
“It is a very sensitive development in the sense that first we have to establish, are they genuine leaders of the Boko Haram. That is number one. Number two, what are their terms? the first impression we had was not very encouraging,’’ the president said.
He expressed his administration’s worries over the continued stay of the Chibok schoolgirls in the hands of their captors, saying he was working tirelessly to get them released.
Buhari noted that the unfortunate incident had attracted global attention and sympathy within and outside Nigeria and government could not fold its alms over the issue.
“But, it is very important that if we are going to talk to anybody, we have to know how much he is worth. Let them bring all the girls and then, we will be prepared to negotiate; I will allow them to come back to Nigeria or to be absorbed in the community.
We have to be very careful; the concern we have for the Chibok girls, one only imagines if they got a daughter there between 14 and 18 and for more than one and a half year, a lot of the parents who have died would rather see the graves of their daughters rather than the condition they imagine they are in.
This has drawn a lot of sympathy throughout the world; that is why this government is working very hard in negotiating and getting the balance of those who are alive,” he said.
Buhari assured the diasporans that his administration was doing everything possible to improve on the state of the economy through provision of infrastructure in critical sectors.
The president’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina had, in July, confirmed the willingness of government to engage the sect in negotiations if they were ready.
The Nigerian Army spokesman, Sani Usman, was quoted in the media as saying that members of the terror group were surrendering “en masse” and that the regional offensive was recording fruitful results against the militants.
Some Nigerians, who fielded questions during the interaction with President Buhari, requested to know what government was doing to guarantee the plight of the disabled.
Questions were also asked about the possibility of diaspora Nigerians to vote during elections.