The federal government has restated its willingness to negotiate with the terrorist Boko Haram group to free the over 200 girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno State, in 2014.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Sunday reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to rescuing the girls abducted by the deadly group.
Mr. Mohammed’s statements came a week after the sect released a video showing its leader, Abubakar Shekau.
In the video, Mr. Shekau threatened to attack more cities and vowed not to release the girls until his group’s members in detention were released.
Mr. Mohammed spoke on a live programme on Channels Television, titled “Nigeria at 56: Recursive, Resilient, Rising.”
He said no group, local or international, could claim to have more stake or be more committed to the rescue of the girls than the Federal Government.
He added that the issue of the rescue of the girls was a humanitarian one that everyone or group should be “passionate but rational about”.
The minister said contrary to the position of some critics, government had robust counter terrorism policy and had recorded significant success in the anti-corruption war.
He said the fact that the Chibok girls were yet to be rescued should not be a yardstick to write off the achievements of government in decimating the Boko Haram group.
Mr. Mohammed recalled that upon assumption of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, many parts of the North-East were under the control of the sect and were not safe and accessible.
He said that the situation was not the same today as no part of the North East region was under the control of the group.
He reiterated that Boko Haram had been decimated and that government was working daily to ensure the release of the abducted girls.
“The North-East is free now, students are returning to schools, all the towns and communities hitherto under the control of the terrorists have been liberated and those who fled their homes are gradually returning,” he said.
The minister also recalled that when the Buhari administration assumed power, it was 410 days after the Chibok girls were abducted without any clue to their rescue by the previous government.
He noted that in all cases of abduction, especially by terrorists, 24 hours was critical to ensuring prompt rescue, adding that the government in power then did not utilise the intelligence then.
The minister said the present administration had thrice established links with Boko Haram for the exchange of the abducted girls with the arrested members of the terrorist group.
He explained that on each occasion, the efforts were thwarted by either the link with the terrorist, fresh demands by Boko Haram or division in the camp of the terrorist group.
Mr. Mohammed said government had not foreclosed negotiation with the group on the release of the girls but it wanted to ensure that the link were genuine and credible.
He said government appreciated the efforts of the “Bring Back Our Girls” (BBOG) group but noted that “the administration is as concerned as they are and ready to work with them in ensuring the release of the girls.”
On her part, Oby Ezekwesili, one of the leaders of the BBOG, reiterated the position of the minister that 24 hours was critical to ensuring success or failure in cases of abduction by terrorists, adding that the past administration failed in that regard.
Ms. Ezekwesili, however, said the BBOG group was disappointed that more than 900 days after the girls’ abduction, there was no tangible evidence or convincing plans by government on their release.
She said the group resumed its agitation with vigour to canvass citizens engagement in the release of the girls and ensure that government did not stay away from the parents of the girls.
She underscored the need for government to carry along the group in its rescue efforts and be consistent in its messages and briefings.
She pledged the support of the group to the government in ensuring a safe rescue of the abducted girls.