The Nigerian government has confirmed that it is engaging in permanent cessation of hostilities talk with Islamist sect, Boko Haram.
Addressing the media in Lagos on Sunday, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed explained that Boko Haram were able to return 107 of the 113 abducted Dapchi schoolgirls and a boy because both parties reached an agreement.
“As I have said at many fora, we neither paid ransom nor swapped any Boko Haram member to secure the release of the girls. This is a fact, irrespective of how a section of the press has tried to spin the story.
“The insurgents brought the girls back to the location of the kidnapping themselves as an apparent gesture of goodwill, following relentless efforts by the Government to find long-lasting solutions to the conflict.
“Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed all security agencies to do everything possible to bring the girls back unharmed.
“That dictated the method we adopted. Back-channel talks with our international friends as mediators, and the result was the release of the girls,” he said.
Mohammed then explained the next line of action by the Nigerian government. “Unknown to many, we have been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now.
“The talks helped to secure the release of the police officers’ wives and the University of Maiduguri lecturers recently. And the talks did not stop thereafter.
“Therefore, we were able to leverage on the wider talks when the Dapchi girls were abducted. As I said earlier, the insurgents decided to return the girls to where they picked them from as a goodwill gesture.
“All they demanded was a ceasefire that will grant them a safe corridor to drop the girls. This is not new. Even in larger war situations, safe corridors are usually created for humanitarian and other purposes.
“Consequently, a week-long ceasefire was declared, starting from Monday, 19 March. That is why the insurgents were able to drop the girls.
“This counters the conspiracy theories being propounded in some quarters concerning why it was so easy for the insurgents to drop off the girls without being attacked by the military.
Mohammed also explained how the schoolgirls were released. “Gentlemen, a total of 111 girls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary and Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi on 19 February 2018.
“That means one student was not captured on the list of 110 abducted students that was compiled by the school, on the basis of which the Federal Government gave the number of abducted schoolgirls
Also kidnapped were two other persons, who are not students of the college. They include a primary school boy who came to the school to sell pure water and another primary school girl. That brings the total number of abducted persons on that day to 113.
So far, a total of 107 persons, comprising 105 Dapchi schoolgirls and the two non-students, have been released by the insurgents.
Six Dapchi schoolgirls are yet unaccounted for. All efforts will be made to secure their release,” he said.