Untold story of the deal that yielded the rescue of 21 Chibok girls

Some of the freed 21 Chibok girls
Some of the freed 21 Chibok girls

The release of 21 Chibok girls by the terrorist Boko Haram group Thursday was the culmination of more than two years of negotiation and perseverance by a team which first assembled about two years ago, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

The key actors who first initiated the process made their initial attempt to rescue the girls around July 2014, during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, but that effort floundered in the last minutes, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

The initial team comprised Shehu Sani, now a senator; rights activist, Fred Eno; a lawyer, Mustapha Zanna; the Nigerian Army, then led by Kenneth Minimah; the Swiss government; and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was called in to play a neutral intermediary role.

Mr. Sani, the sources said, began the process when he reached out to the Swiss Government through its Embassy in Nigeria and then linked them to Mr. Zanah who in turn connected the Swiss authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross with the leadership of Boko Haram.

Mr. Jonathan appointed elder statesman, Edwin Clark, to liaise with the team and government.

After a few weeks of work, the team nearly secured the release of the girls in 2014.

Highly placed sources familiar with the negotiation told PREMIUM TIMES at the time that the deal fell through due to the clumsy manner in which the Jonathan administration handled it.

“It boils down, basically, to three key issues: inflexibility and lack of realism on the part of the insurgent forces; lack of support for a negotiated settlement to the insurgency on the part of security forces; and what appears to be government’s acceptance that the security forces were right,” the sources said.

“The president desperately wanted the girls released, but politics of positioning stood in the way of progress,” Mr. Eno told PREMIUM TIMES at the time.

After the initial effort failed, according to our sources, Messrs Sani, Eno and Clark moved on to other things.

But other members of the team remained tenacious and kept exploring available options for the release of the girls, this newspaper learnt.

The State Security Service (SSS) led the fresh negotiation with the team using the existing line of dialogue established in 2014.

The Nigerian military was left out of the initial negotiation after the Boko Haram leadership reportedly insisted it would have nothing with an organisation that had been killing its members, and had killed some of the Chibok girls in aerial bombardments.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the SSS was therefore enlisted to lead the negotiation, gather intelligence regarding the reliability of the release window and provide other support services essential to the operation.

After a deal had been struck, the Red Cross was called in to meet the leadership of the sect as well as sight the girls.

A date and location was then agreed for the release of the girls.

On Wednesday, October 14, the military was contacted to deploy some of its men to a particular location in Banki, a border town in Bama local government area of Borno State, to pick up the 21 girls, officials said.

The girls were released at 5:30 am on Thursday and immediately flown to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, in a chopper.

The Nigerian government announced the release of the girls on Thursday morning, hours after they were successfully received from insurgents in the highly confidential operation.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, dismissed reports that the girls were rescued in exchange for top-level suspected Boko Haram detainees across the country.

The release was a “product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides,” Mr. Mohammed said at a world press conference Thursday afternoon. “Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release.”

Mr. Mohammed’s comments that the girls were not released based on a prisoner swap deal immediately sparked speculation that the government may have paid ransom.

However, presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, denied that any ransom was paid.

Mr. Buhari had repeatedly stated his willingness to rescue the girls even if it required swapping them with suspected terrorists in custody.

A government source said negotiations for the release of the remaining girls were continuing.


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  • Sunday ALABI

    Wednesday was October 12 not 14.

  • Burning Spear

    The same old lies from the pit of hell——no Chibok girl was ever freed–These are girls picked up from IDP camps————————-Let the government tell us the group that released the girls————–Was it Shekau or the faction that has the support of ISIS? Which one of the groups negotiated their release-biko? Or they fell from the Skies around Cameroon? Animals-

  • OSIKE

    GLORY BE TO GOD FOR THEIR RELEASE. WE WILL CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THE RELEASE OF THE REMAINING GIRLS. GOD WILL DO IT USING MEN. AMEN.

  • vagabonds in power

    After more than two years in captivity by Boko Haram, Nigeria’s government now said today that 21 of the schoolgirls whose abduction triggered the #BringBackOurGirls campaign have been released. But in APRIL 2014, the Nigerian military said over 100 of these abducted girls were freed; IN APRIL 2015, same army said it rescued 200 of the same girls; then May 2016 (this year), the very same military again claimed it rescued over 100 of the hostages. Please read the links below and be the judge in the CHIBOK SCAM – the biggest CAMPAIGN RIP-OFF in Nigeria’s history.

    APRIL 2014

    NIGERIAN MILITARY SAYS OVER 100 GIRLS ABDUCTED FROM SCHOOL ARE FREED – KCTV5

    KANO, Nigeria (CNN) – Heavily armed men descended on the school as the girls slept. Bullets flew as guards fought back, but they lost. The men, Boko Haram militants, herded more than 100 students onto buses, vans and trucks and drove off, flanked by motorcycles, authorities said. It was not immediately clear how the girls became free. Their conditions were also not clear.

    • Uzoma John

      Confusion caused by your ogogoro drinking brother Jona

      • IZON Redeemer

        @wahala———————another Hail Hitler of Bingo Buhari —-known as the trolls———-I will rather u confine your semi–Ibo thoughts———to helping us fish out the Fulani boko haram cowhands—–that murdered Ibo farmers in the south east——————–and went on to rip open the bellies of your women.–while your cowardly Ibo elites stood by———————Again is it a sin for us to ask Bingo Buhari to tell us the faction that released the fake Chibok gals to us————–? Whether it was Shekau that the Army said through Thief Burutai that—was injured—–that freed them we have the right to know—Aware shekau–recently re–appeared in the moon around inside Aso Rock—after his death—So–Just tell us the group that released the gals——————————-to bingo buhari period—————————–instead of dragging the name of Jonathan into the mud again and again—–because of lack of better things to do with your miserable oil thieving and dependent life

        • Julius

          lolz, you must be seeing Wahala in your dreams. Na wa oooo

    • mybros

      I am indeed very sorry for you in the way you post here. Its either you are not just able to comprehend things well enough or you just hate everything from this government with a passion. therefore will never agree to anything or see good in anything done or achieved.
      imagine if these girls are from your family, will you be talking like this?

  • customng

    THE NIGERIA CUS_TOM AU_CT_I0N MARKET HAS BEEN OFFICALLY OPENED FOR 2016, Contact 07063187435 We se..II all kinds of rice at che@p ra.tes, of 50kg ALSO A BAG OF RICE ALSO GOES FOR #N8,5OO PER BAG FOR 10 BAGS AND ABOVE

  • Burning Spear

    The same old lies from the pit of hell——no Chibok girl was ever freed–These are girls picked up from IDP camps————————-Let the government tell us the group that released the girls————–Was it Shekau or the faction that has the support of ISIS? Which one of the groups negotiated their release-biko? Or they fell from the Skies around the Cameroon Mountains? Liars—————————————-that is what the Apes in APC are————-Animals-

    • Sincere-Voice

      May God deliver you from hatred and destruction. If your sisters, wife, daughters or nieces was among does abducted, you would have believed.

      • George

        His invisible sister abi which never existed

    • Julius

      I knew that you are your ilks will hate this news. God forgive you of your hatred. THe biarats also hates this news but, that is expected.

  • mybros

    whichever way these girls are released, we say well done to the govt and are indeed grateful to God for the achievement and pray that these girls will regain their self respect and move on with their lives.

  • Sincere-Voice

    Kudos to the government for a job well done. The efforts of this government to reposition this country for good won’t be a waste by God’s grace.

  • vagabonds in power

    After more than two years in captivity by Boko Haram, Nigeria’s government now said today that 21 of the schoolgirls whose abduction triggered the #BringBackOurGirls campaign have been released. But in APRIL 2014, the Nigerian military said over 100 of these abducted girls were freed; IN APRIL 2015, same army said it rescued 200 of the same girls; then May 2016 (this year), the very same military again claimed it rescued over 100 of the hostages. Please read the links below and be the judge in the CHIBOK SCAM – the biggest CAMPAIGN RIP-OFF in Nigeria’s history.

    APRIL 2014

    NIGERIAN MILITARY SAYS OVER 100 GIRLS ABDUCTED FROM SCHOOL ARE FREED – KCTV5

    KANO, Nigeria (CNN) – Heavily armed men were alleged to have descended on the school as the girls slept. Bullets flew as guards fought back, but they lost. The men, Boko Haram militants, herded more than 100 students onto buses, vans and trucks and drove off, flanked by motorcycles, authorities said. It was not immediately clear how the girls became free. Their conditions were also not clear.) Most Nigerians know for sure that, the Apes in Apc are just trying to deceive the masses with these lies—-about the release of the fake Chibok gals———————-by Shekau………….no na ISIS…….ANIMALS

  • Ikechi Ngwube

    This report is out rightly tendentious and without basis. We didn’t hear or see any ‘untold details’ as promised by the screaming headline. Even the paper’s attempt to link the release to a failed effort in 2014 fell flat on its face. An effort was made in 2014 and it fell and the characters involved moved on with other things. The girls were not released and they stayed in captivity for two whole years. Now a new government came on board and followed up and here we are; some of the girls were released with the promise that others would be released and here we have a premium Times trying to weave a cocktail of mangled stories that does not add up? I am fearing that Premium a Times is fast degenerating to a junk media. They should watch it.

    • The Voice

      The untold story you could not see from the passage is that the genesis of the deal was from the previous government which this present government leveraged on.

      • dami

        But the previous government bungled it and its negotiators moved on to other things…

        • The Voice

          But at least they started the process. They gave a lead which this government followed.

          • blueeyedkitten

            DID YOU EVER BELIEVE THE GIRLS WERE KIDNAPPED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

          • dami

            Starting something that is eventually bungled cannot be said to be seen as a positive endeavour.
            Even the so called negotiators / facilitators under Jonathan (who were also staunch gej supporters) abandoned the endeavour.

          • Kay Soyemi (Esq.)

            Bros, stop digging.

            You’re only confirming that the last government bungled everything it touched.

            Aside that, the previous government and foot soldiers like you were busy insisting that no girls were kidnapped.

      • Aremu Mathew Okikiolu

        What is your point? Leverage on a bungled Genesis? You should read the story again for a better comprehension.

    • share Idea

      If you are just realising it now, it means you have not been subjecting their news item to proper scrutiny. The charade of Chibok abduction is a big hot potato that this administration does not know how to swallow without having a sore throat.

      PT is now telling that GEJ made efforts to rescue Chibok girls while all these while, they have been chorusing this administration lies and propaganda that GEJ did not do any time to rescue them. Imagine, PT trying to blame the death of abducted girls to bombardment done under GEJ’s tenure even when recent stories have it that current administration have killed some of the Chibok girls.

      • Aremu Mathew Okikiolu

        Did you travel when some people are still insisting that no girl was kidnapped? We’re these girls not kidnapped/abducted when GEJ was dancing in Kano? What difference would it make then and now that the negotiations started before now? The fundamental issue is that some of the abducted girls have been released. Period. Many more are still in
        captivity. These are our compatriots.

  • javscong javscong

    I join millions of people all over the world who are rejoicing following the release of 21 of the over 200 girls who have been held captive by boko haram for 2 years plus. However, I am rather saddened by the fanfare this has elicited. First, these are young girls who have endured untold trauma. In less than 24 hours after their release, they are thrown into very ill conceived camera glare. By far the most important thing would have been to give them medical attention, both physical and psychological. Attend to their individual needs and get them reunited with their parents and loved ones.These young girls were traumatized by men and all of a sudden they are surrounded by strange men. Please stop the media hype and do the most essential thing, seeing to their mental and physical well being. The government spokesmen too must be very guarded about their comments because another 197 girls are yet to be accounted for. At this stage nobody is interested in what deals went on to secure the girls release. All that can come when all the girls have been accounted for.

  • James Ojapa

    Just like they did not pay ransom for cbn governor wife but ended up arresting some people with the ransom

    • utolason

      Does it really matter whether or not something was given in exchange.

      • George

        Keep on fooling yourself with different names slave boy

        • utolason

          Your comment says a lot about you!

  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    Same method adopted by the FGN to secure the release of those 21-Chibok girls to secure the release of the remaining Chibok Government secondary school,abducted girls now.Whatever the carrot used to secure their release must be used to secure the release of the remaining abducted Chibok government secondary school,Chibok,Borno State.

  • Sir Louis

    President Buhari has done well on this matter. Let the negotiations be fast- tracked to secure the release of the other remaining girls. The President should endeavour to achieve success on other contentious issues. Nigerians would be happy with him.

  • George

    Those who will decamp from this evil gathering called APC before 2019 will tell us what exactly is Chibok girls stories are all about.

    I pray they push Jingiri or Saraki harder then they will open up or this present mad house wife Ahsia from Mali in Buhari house as a rebel wife.

  • Ejire

    This story is bunkum and an arrant nonsense! What on earth is the author trying to insinuate? That some ghosts secured the release of the girls and not a result of the sincere efforts of the government? God save us.

  • larry

    Were these girls rescued or swapped? Rescued means using force and Boko Haram got nothing in return. Swapped means quid pro quo. That is, this for that. Simply put, it means that Boko Haram got something in return to release the girls

  • Naijabuffs.com

    Cahs or no Cash , those girls can now go back to their parents. No parent should go through the horror of not knowing where their children are.

  • Naijabuffs.com

    AISHA BUHARI’s INTERVIEW WITH BBC

    “After receiving complaints upon complaints , I decided to to tell him but all the same a lot of people have been coming on their own and also collectively to tell him that things are not going the way it should . That is , when it comes to like putting people in certain positions. Most of these people that occupy some agencies ; number one nobody knows them , number two they don’t know our party manifesto, they don’t know what we campaigned for, they are not part of us completely , they don’t know our mission, they don’t have a vision of our APC. I haven’t own right (you know) to say how I feel about something .if it continues like this , I’m. It going ton be part of any movement again . Because I need to work with people we started with together, collectively so that we can achieve what we want to achieve. So that he can have a legacy. ”