The Federal Government on Friday in Abuja revealed that the security agencies had thrice struck a chord to rescue the abducted Chibok girls.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this at a press conference to update the public on efforts of government to rescue the girls.
The Minister said the attempts were, however, stalled by a contact group and the division in the Boko Haram camp.
Mohammed reiterated the commitment of the government “to trace, locate and ensure the safe and successful release of the Chibok girls.”
The minister said that in July 2015, a contact group was in touch with government with credible facts attesting to the fact that some of the girls were alive.
He said the President was briefed and he gave his assent for further negotiations on their release.
“Precisely on July 17, 2015, the DSS opened negotiations process with the group holding the Chibok girls. However, in return for the release of some of these girls, the group also made some demands.
These included the release of some of their fighters arrested including some involved in major terrorist actions, resulting in several fatalities, and others who were experts in manufacturing of locally assembled explosives.
This was difficult to accept, but appropriate security agencies had to again inform Mr. President of these demands, and its viewed implications.
Again, Mr President gave his assent believing that the overall release of these girls remains paramount and sacrosanct,” he said.
Mohammed said the government and the security agencies worked out the modalities of the swap which included creating the safe haven, or necessary place of swap and working out the logistic details.
He said it was finally agreed by all parties that the first step for the swap would commence on August 1, 2015
“On 4th of August, 2015, the persons who were to be part of the swap arrangements and all others involved in the operation were transported to Maiduguri.
This team, with the lead facilitator, continued the contact with the group holding the Chibok girls.
The Service was able to further prove to the group its sincerity, as it established communication contact between it and its detained members.
All things were in place for the swap which was mutually agreed. Expectations were high.
Unfortunately, after more than two (2) weeks of negotiation and bargains, 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,” he said.
The minister said that in spite of the setback, the government and the security agencies did not relent in the bid to ensure that the girls were released safely.
He said on November 13, 2015, another fresh negotiation process with the group was initiated.
“This time, there was the need to discuss a fresh component in order to avoid issues that had stalled the former arrangement.
There were, however, some problems that many may not discern, but should be expected in this kind of situation.
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 among members of the group then.
These two factors delayed the process. In spite of these, negotiation continued on new modalities
By November 30, 2015 it was becoming glaring that the division among the group was more profound. This affected the swap process,” he said.
The Minister said that by December 10, 2015, another negotiation process was in place, but it failed to achieve results because of the varying demands by the group.
He said that since the beginning of 2016 the security agencies had remained committed and also taken the lead to ensure their release.
Mohammed said that renewed efforts had commenced using trusted assets and facilitators to ensure the release of the girls.
“Officers and men have sacrificed their time and energy, and some have already paid the supreme price since the abduction of the Chibok girls, fighting for the safe release of the girls. Many friendly countries and organisations have equally been very forthcoming in providing their human and technological resources to assist in the process. They are still doing so. We cannot as a nation ignore these sacrifices,” he assured.
Mohammed appreciated the resilience of Nigerians in the fight against insurgency and terrorism and specifically appealed 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 every other citizen abducted by the group,” he said.
He stressed that those who had shown concern in resolving the matter should continue to trust the efforts of government to deal with the situation.