*FG turns down Boko Haram swap deal
*Sect wants 30 commanders for 30 girls
By Soni Daniel
From a person who seems to have an insight into the operations of Boko Haram came chilling accounts of girls taken captive by the terror group.
“Girls tell how they were raped every day, week after week. One girl was raped every day, sometimes several times a day by groups of men. Some did not survive the ordeal,” Stephen Davis, an Australian negotiator, who visited Nigeria to mediate the release of the Chibok girls captured by the Islamist group, recounted in an article contributed to Sunday Vanguard, titled, ‘When I met Asari and agreed a peace deal.’
The negotiator spoke on a day it emerged that Boko Haram and government representatives held talks on swapping the group’s members in prison with the kidnapped schoolgirls. At the talks, government reportedly rejected Boko Haram’s demand to exchange 30 of its commanders in prison with 30 of the Chibok girls.
Davis was responding to a newspaper interview by a former Niger-Delta militant leader, Alhaji Asari-Dokubo, in which he claimed the almost 300 girls, reportedly captured in Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram, may not have been seized after all.
By this weekend, the girls, some of whom apparently escaped from their captors, have spent over 160 days in captivity.
The schoolgirls were seized on April 14.
“The escaped girls tell harrowing stories of rape and abuse. They are traumatised and require medical treatment and counselling. These girls are testament to the horrifying truth about the kidnapping,” the negotiator stated.
Davis made a strong case for action against Boko Haram sponsors to end insurgency in the North-east.
He also recounted his encounter with Dokubo at the peak of the Niger-Delta militancy during the Obasanjo administration, leading to a truce between the militants and security forces. Read Stephen Davis’ piece here.
Chibok: FG, Boko Haram in swap deal
Meanwhile, a report, yesterday, said government officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross had talks with Boko Haram about swapping prisoners of the Islamist terror group for the Chibok school girls kidnapped in April.
CNN, quoting a source involved in the negotiations, said officials met four times in mid-August with two senior members of Boko Haram in Abuja.
The swap would involve the release of 30 Boko Haram commanders in the custody of government, according to the source, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Boko Haram reportedly submitted a list with the names of 30 members who were either convicted or awaiting trial on terror offenses.
“The two Boko Haram negotiators assured the ICRC and government negotiators that the girls were never raped, were never used as sex slaves and were never sexually assaulted,” said the source.
But this claim is disputed by Davis.
The terror group was said to have expressed a willingness for a swap with the ICRC at an undisclosed location, according to the source. But there was disagreement on some terms, including the number of girls involved in the swap.
Boko Haram, it was learnt, insisted on an even swap — 30 girls for 30 commanders — but the government refused.
“They were only ready to release one to one, which the government was not going to accept,” the source said.
Another hurdle in the talks was Boko Haram’s insistence on meeting the imprisoned 30 members involved in the swap, but they only had contact with six at a prison outside Abuja, the source said.
The six prisoners included Kabiru Sokoto, a senior Boko Haram commander convicted in December 2013 of terror charges related to the deadly Christmas Day bombing of a church in Madallah in 2011.
“ICRC couldn’t find where the remaining 24 were being detained,” the source said.
The Boko Haram negotiators said they would get back to government after consulting with their superiors.
ICRC sources declined to comment.