August 15, 2016

Govt in talks with Boko Haram terrorists – Lai Mohammed

Abubakar Shekau and the abducted girls

By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Abayomi Olonishakin has said that swapping detained Boko Haram members with the missing Chibok girls was a political decision which does not affect the military operation in the den of the terrorists.

This was even as the federal government said it was already in talks with the deadly group to rescue the girls abducted in their school in Chibok, Borno State on May 2014.

It will be recalled that Boko Haram made a swap demand as a precondition for ceasefire and the release of the girls.

But rising from a meeting of the Service Chiefs and Chief Executives at the presidential Villa, Abuja on Monday, the CDS said the exchange was entirely a decision of the political class and not that of the Army.

He said: “That 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.”

Disclosing other issues discussed in the meeting, Olonishakin said that flood featured.

On one of the persons declared wanted who was reported to have surrendered to the Army in Maiduguri, the CDS said no such development.

“The meeting was about how we handle crisis, all forms of crisis, be it flood or terrorism.

“We are analyzing the video released by Boko Haram and we will make appropriate comments at the right time.

“Nobody reported to my men and was not turned back”, the CDS said after the meeting which had not President Muhammadu or his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo in attendance.

FG negotiating with terrorists

Information Minister who was part of the meeting told State House Correspondents that the government was in talks with the Boko Haram members to secure the safe return of the girls.

He said: “The government’s position is clear that we are in touch with them. We are just being careful and cautious to ensure that we are 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 are on top of the situation. We are not even just reacting to the video, we have gone far beyond the video in talking to the group already.

Call for swap

“Until you are able to ascertain the authenticity of those you are talking to, you don’t go into details.

Planned match to villa by BBOG

“We appreciate their commitment to the return of these girls but there are few things we need to do behind the scene. What we are saying is that the government is committed to do everything to rescue these girls.

“We are engaging them. By saying we are talking to them, I am 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 is not attracting any attention. But everyday, the Office of the NSA and others concerned are working on it.

“For us, it is not just because of the release of the video but because of our belief that there will be no final closure to Boko Haram until we are able to resolve the issue of these girls.”

Also speaking, the Comptroller General of the Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) said the meeting discussed flood and other sensitive issues.

“It was not a meeting as such. It was a little workshop that was arranged for us to understand how to respond to emergency issues and how to be in the position to advise the President to take the right decisions under emergency cases either terrorism, flood or any other thing.

“It was put together for chief executives to sit down and understand the process of taking decision when there is disaster. We plan to put what we have learnt today into use.

“We are facing terrorism and we have disasters. There is information going round now that some states are going to witness flood. We never can tell when disasters will happen. We must be ready to be able to counter whatever happens”, he said.