The top echelon of the Nigerian military has said only the political authorities can decide on the demand by Boko Haram Terrorists for exchange of the abducted Chibok girls with the sect’s detained members.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonishakin, stated this while addressing State House correspondents Monday after a workshop organised for chief executives of government agencies held at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
A new video released weekend, showed some girls purporting to be the Chibok girls with a masked Boko Haram fighter in military fatigue calling on the Federal Government to set in motion a swap deal that will see detained members of the sect released in exchange for the schoolgirls, who have spent over two years in captivity.
The masked fighter, who spoke in Hausa language, claimed that some of the girls were killed in airstrikes by Nigeria’s military, about 40 married off while others are injured. He further boasted that only a swap deal will see the Chibok girls regaining their freedom as no amount of military bombardment or intelligence report, will be able to secure their release.
While one of the girls, who spoke on behalf of her classmates has been positively identified as Dorcas Yakubu by the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group, the claim that some of the girls were killed in airstrikes, has been refuted by the Defence Headquarters.
Speaking on the demand by the sect for a swap deal, the CDS said “That (swapping of Chibok girls with detained sect members) is a political decision to be taken. The military decision is that we are going ahead with our operations. The operation is being conducted appropriately”.
General Olonishakin, who said the meeting was on how to handle all forms of crises, including terrorism or flood, said the military was analysing the video and would make appropriate comments at the right time.
He also dismissed a report that a man who was declared wanted in connection with the activities of the insurgents, Ahmed Bolori, was turned down when he reported to the army command in Borno State.
Bolori, who reported at the army command in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital yesterday, claimed that there was nobody to interrogate him and he was asked to go home and return today (Monday).
But the Defence Chief said “Nobody reported to my men and [he] was not turned back”.
In a related development, the Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, spoke on the swap deal demanded by the Boko Haram sect.
“Until you are able to ascertain the authenticity of those you are talking to, you don’t go into details”, he told State House correspondents today at the end of the workshop.
The minister restated that the Federal Government was in touch with the leadership of the sect.
“The government’s position is clear that we’re in touch with them. We’re just being careful and cautious to ensure that we’re talking to the right people especially with the news that there is a split in the leadership. But what is important is the safety and security of these girls. The thrust of my statement was to ensure the nation that we’re on top of the situation. We’re not even just reacting to the video, we’ve gone far beyond the video in talking to the group already”, he said.
On the threat issued by the BBOG campaigners to match on the State House again over the continued non-release of the Chibok girls, Mohammed said: “We appreciate their commitment to the return of these girls, but there are few things we need to do behind the scene. What we’re saying is that the government is committed to doing everything to rescue these girls. We’re engaging them. By saying we’re talking to them, I’m talking from a point of knowledge. It does not matter what other people say. I know that the government is in touch with the group”.
“Most people will forget the issue of these girls as soon as the effect of this video is over, but the government is daily working on it. Until the release of this video, the effort was not attracting any attention. But every day, the Office of the NSA and others concerned are working on it. For us, it’s not just because of the release of the video, but because of our belief that there’ll be no final closure to Boko Haram until we’re able to resolve the issue of these girls”, he added.