The Nigerian government will only continue negotiations with the Boko Haram if “they agree to involve international agencies like ICRC (Red Cross),” President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
The Nigerian leader, who met with the President of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, thanked the international agency for its role in the discussions that led to the release of 21 of the kidnapped Chibok girls.
The 21 girls and over 180 others were kidnapped by the Boko Haram from their secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, in April 2014.
According to a statement by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, Mr. Buhari also told his guest that Nigeria’s biggest problem was handling the over 2 million people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Read Mr. Adesina’s full statement below:
President Muhammadu Buhari has commended the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the release of the 21 abducted Chibok schoolgirls, urging it to sustain humanitarian interest in Nigeria.
Meeting with Peter Maurer, ICRC President, at State House, Abuja, Monday, President Buhari said his administration is prepared to continue talks with the Boko Haram insurgent group, “as long as they agree to involve international agencies like ICRC.
“We’ve seen the result of recent talks, 21 of the Chibok girls are back,” the President said, referring to the role played by ICRC in providing immediate humanitarian assistance to the girls, who had spent over 900 days in the hands of their abductors.
President Buhari said Nigeria’s biggest problem was perhaps the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs). He said there were over 2 million of them, “made up of over 60% women and children. About 60% of the children don’t know their parents, or where they come from. It is weighing heavily on government.”
On rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure, President Buhari said it was a priority of government, noting that the G7 had equally indicated support, which Nigeria heartily welcomed.
“We appreciate all your efforts. I am pleased you recognized that our military is cooperating with civil authorities, and respecting humanitarian issues. It is a difficult time for Nigeria. About 27 of our 36 states couldn’t pay salaries when we came last year, and we are still struggling with that. But we will get out of it,” the President said.
Mr. Maurer, the ICRC President, said their operation in the Lake Chad region is the second largest in the world, after Syria, adding that there are nutritional, health, water and sanitation issues in the North-east, in addition to rebuilding of infrastructure.
“We are ready to engage and play supportive role in responding to crisis in Nigeria. Security is a lot better than it was a year ago, but humanitarian problems are serious, and don’t disappear so quickly,” Mr. Maurer said.
The ICRC President also commended Nigeria for granting increased access to detainees, and exchanges with the Armed Forces.
He added: “Detention facilities have improved, there are fewer deaths, and things are better health-wise.”