BOKO Haram, the terrorist group that abducted over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, may have abandoned its prisoner swap for Chibok girls position, as it plans to begin the release of the girls from next week.
According to Telegraph, a United Kingdom (UK) newspaper, it was claimed that the sect was willing to conduct a “gradual” release of its hostages, in return for the release of Boko Haram prisoners in Nigerian jails.
In a significant concession, the group, it was learnt, had abandoned demands for its top commanders to be released, seemingly aware that this would be politically impossible for the Nigerian government.
The reported details of Boko Haram’s offer of an imminent prisoner exchange was published last week, when
sources close to some of the militants’ families said a senior Islamic cleric from northern Nigeria would be appointed to mediate on its behalf with the government.
The cleric has since been joined by a former aide to one of the group’s founders, but neither of them had been named, possibly for their safety.
While the Nigerian government had insisted that it was not willing to enter into prisoner swap negotiations, the source claimed that dialogue had already been ongoing in secret for several days.
“Contrary to the public rejection of any swap deal by the Nigerian government, there are some on-the-ground talks taking place,” the source said, adding that “an agreement was reached about two or three days ago in principle to start releasing some prisoners.”
He said among the prisoners that the group wanted released would be wives and families of Boko Haram fighters, some of whom had been taken into custody by the Nigerian government in order to exert emotional pressure on the fighters.
“The group also has a list of lower-level fighters that it wants released as well, but they are not high-profile ones,” the source added.
He said in exchange, Boko Haram was willing to start a “gradual” release of around 100 of the girls – possibly beginning as early as the coming week.
“Depending on how the other side responds, the girls will be released in small groups. They will be left at a certain safe location and the authorities will then be told as to where they can pick them up from,” he said.
The Telegraph source said Boko Haram leaders had been upset by the declaration of “war” at the Paris summit, adding that this could encourage it to withdraw its offer.
When asked if the Borno State government was aware of the development, the state acting Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Bulama, said only security agencies could give the government information on the development.
Defence spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, replied to the inquiry with a text message, “I am in a meeting.”
Meanwhile, the process of approval of the United Nations (UN) sanctions on Boko Haram, as requested by Nigeria, may be done next week.
The United States Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman, disclosed this on Saturday in Paris, while fielding questions from journalists.
Sherman represented President Barack Obama at a meeting called by French President, Francois Hollande, to solve the Boko Haram issue on the African continent.
Sherman, answering a question on the speed with which the issue would be treated, said “it could be very quickly. Could be next week.”
Under Secretary Sherman disclosed that all the countries at the table were focused on coordinating all of their information, intelligence and resources to solve the Boko Haram issue.
When asked to describe the assets the US was deploying to Nigeria to aid finding the girls, Sherman said a multidisciplinary inter-agency team had been deployed as well as flying an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).
IG tightens security around Makurdi schools
The Inspector General of Police, M. D. Abubakar, has ordered the tightening of security in all boarding schools in and around Makurdi, Benue State capital.
This came on the heels of recent threat letter purportedly issued by elements claiming to be Boko Haram members to two all-boys secondary schools – Government College, Makurdi and Mount Saint Gabriel College, Makurdi.
Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, in a statement on Sunday, noted that Benue State police command, had already strengthened surveillance in the schools and other boarding schools within Makurdi metropolis.