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Decision on Chibok Girls, Boko Haram Prisoner Swap is Political – Defence Chief

Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonishakin

Following the release of a new video showing some of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt. Gen. Abayomi Olonishakin, has said the release of detained Boko Haram suspects for the return of the girls is a political decision.

This is just as two of the persons – Mrs. Aisha Wakil and Ahmed Bolori – who were declared wanted by the Nigerian Army on Sunday for allegedly withholding information on the whereabouts of the girls, yesterday turned themselves in to the military authorities in Abuja and Maiduguri, respectively, to provide information that may help them in the rescue of the secondary schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the terror sect two years ago.

A third person, Ahmad Salkida, a journalist who once worked for Blueprint and Daily Trust newspapers in Abuja, but is now resident in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), was also declared wanted for posting the latest video that showed the Chibok girls.

Speaking with reporters after a meeting of top security chiefs at the State House in Abuja yesterday, which was neither attended by the president or the vice-president, the CDS said the military was analysing the video released by Boko Haram and would make appropriate comments at the right time.

Asked what the meeting dwelt on, he responded: “The meeting was about how we can handle crises, all forms of crises, be it floods or terrorism.”

On the three persons declared wanted by the Nigerian army in relation to the Chibok girls’ kidnapping, he said: “Nobody reported to my men and was turned back.”
On the plea to swap the detained Boko Haram suspects with the girls, he said: “That is a political decision. The military’s decision is that we are going ahead with our operations. The operation is being conducted appropriately.”

Also speaking, the Comptroller General of Customs Hammeed Ali said: “It was not a meeting as such, but a little workshop that was arranged for us to understand how to respond to emergency issues, and how to be in a position to advise the president to take the right decisions during emergency situations, either in the event of terrorism, flooding or any other thing.

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

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

In his remarks, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reiterated that the federal government ‎was in talks with Boko Haram to ensure 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 cautious to ensure that we are talking to the right people especially with the news that there is a split in the leadership.”

Mohammed said the safety and security of the girls remained a high priority of the government.
“The thrust of my statement was to assure 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,” he added.

Asked for the position of government on the demand by Boko Haram for a prisoner swap for the return of the girls, the minister said: “Until you are able to ascertain the authenticity of those you are talking to, you don’t go into details.”

On the plan by members of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group to carry its protest to the State House, the minister said that government appreciates their efforts and assured them that government remained determined to rescue the girls.

He said: “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 was not attracting any attention. But everyday, the Office of the National Security Adviser and others concerned were 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.”

Wakil, Bolori Turn Themselves in

However, two of the persons declared wanted by the Nigerian Army in relation to the whereabouts of the schoolgirls have voluntarily turned themselves in to the authorities in Maiduguri and Abuja, to assist them with the search and rescue of the Chibok girls.

One of the three persons, Bolori, who had turned himself in on Sunday evening at 7 Division HQ in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, but was asked to go back home without questioning, returned to the army barracks yesterday, reported online news medium, Premium Times.

At about 10 a.m. yesterday, Bolori posted a picture on his Facebook page showing him signing a security post visitor’s book with a comment that read: “I have signed the visitors register since and I am still waiting to be taken in. Although the Army guard doesn’t have airtime to contact his head.”

An hour later, he posted another photo saying: “Finally, I am driving into the Army Operations Headquarters now.”

Some 20 minutes later, he posted another picture saying: “The army is now treating me friendly and peacefully, as a nice colonel by the name Ahmed (a military police officer), just took me to his office to drink tea. May God help us!”

Similarly, Mrs. Wakil, a Nigerian, turned up at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in Abuja yesterday, insisting she was not on the run and faulted the army for declaring her wanted.

Wakil told Premium Times she arrived at DHQ but was not immediately taken in for interrogation.
She said front desk officers asked her what she wanted and she told them she was declared wanted yesterday. But the officers said they were not aware of such a declaration until she asked them to read the newspapers online.

“They told me they will go and read and get back to me,” Wakil said.
A few minutes later, a supervisor entered the reception to collect her passport and told her he would return 10 minutes later.

The spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Col. Sani Usman, later confirmed that Wakil had turned herself in.

“I have been reliably informed that she has reported at the Defence Headquarters and she has been directed to the Directorate of Military Intelligence,” Usman said.

Before she reported at DHQ, Wakil said she was surprised that the army declared her wanted despite knowing where to find her.

In a statement she released monday, she said she once met “the chief of army staff and his people” and offered to bring along Boko Haram commanders for dialogue, but the army “chose to do things their own way”.

She said she was always open about her links with Boko Haram but the government always doubted her and wondered why the military chose to believe her this time and embarrass her and her family.
“I am Aisha Alkali Wakil. I understand that the military declared me, Ahmed Silkida and Ahmed Bolori wanted for having links with Boko Haram. It’s interesting, now they believe me,” she said in the statement.

“I know the Boko Haram boys. I have been in front fighting for peace long before the Chibok girls were kidnapped. Nigerian security knows me too well, I’m not shady. Why declare me wanted?
“I have had meetings with Chief of Army Staff and his people. I told them the way forward, to allow me come with some commanders of Boko Haram and discuss with them and present the release of CBGs (Chibok gorls), but they chose to do things their own ways only and never gave consideration to any of my suggestions.

“I want to inform the Nigerian people of my innocence and make them realise that I am in constant relation with the security personnel and they know where to find me, but wonder why I had to be declared wanted on the national news, even mentioning my husband’s name alongside.
“This has put my immediate and extended family under a lot of pressure and I do not deserve this from the Nigerian government. Though they may not appreciate all my efforts to proffer peaceful solutions to the menace of BH, my name should not be mudslinged [sic] nor my character defamed,” she added.

Wakil, who nicknamed herself “Mama Boko Haram”, was a member of the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, otherwise known as the Boko Haram Amnesty Committee, set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan, with the belief that it would reach out to leaders of the sect and end the insurgency.

However, the ceasefire engineered by the committee turned out to be fake.
In his reaction, the journalist, Salkida, who has been resident in Dubai for more than three years, said his status as a Nigerian journalist who has “reported extensively, painstakingly and consistently on the Boko Haram menace in the country since 2006 is an open book known to Nigerians and the international community”.

He added: “Equally, my total allegiance and sacrifice to the Federal Republic of Nigeria is self evident. I have stayed within the creed of professional journalism in my work.
“As a testimony to the credible and professional values of my access, since May 2015, l have been to Nigeria three times on the invitation of federal government agencies. I made personal sacrifices for the release of our Chibok daughters.

“Finally, the army is aware that I am not in Nigeria presently. In the coming days I will seek to get a flight to Abuja and avail myself to the army authorities. Indeed, my return will be hastened if the military sends me a ticket.”

Buhari’s Govt Clueless

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Chibok community in Abuja, Tsambido Hosea, yesterday slammed the Muhammadu Buhari administration, stating that it was more clueless than that of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government on the rescue of the missing Chibok girls.

Hosea, who spoke in Abuja at the daily sit out of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group, expressed the frustration of the Chibok people over the intrigues and politics that have surround the continued captivity of the 218 Chibok secondary school girls by Boko Haram, saying that the current administration has been clueless about the rescue of the missing girls.

According to him, “We are very, very angry with this government. This government is very clueless more than the previous government because of their empty promises.

“In the history of Chibok, we have never voted the government in power but this government got our votes on the understanding that it would bring back our daughters.

“Because of this issue, the Chibok community wholeheartedly voted Governor Kashim Shettima and President Buhari into power.”

He stated that most of the parents of the missing girls were very sad because they have not seen their children, adding at this point, “we want the government to sit up and give us hope because they are asking for peace and economic progress and if they don’t, they will not get any of the peace and economic progress they want”.

“I learnt that the government is withdrawing troops from the North-east to protect oil installations in the Niger Delta, does it mean the oil is better than our girls?” he queried.
Speaking also, a leader of BBOG, Aisha Yesufu, informed reporters that everyone was angry with the way the federal government has been foot-dragging over the rescue operation of the girls.

He stressed that there was a sense of anger over the whole issue and urged the federal government to make efforts to calm down the parents of the girls, as they need psychological help.

“The military is running helter-skelter without being tactical. Government should sit down and do the needful,” she said.

While addressing the BBOG group, one of its founders and former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwezili, said the group would not be tired of demanding for the rescue of the girls by the federal government.

Ezekwezili, who berated the federal government for declaring Salkida wanted despite his efforts behind the scenes to help secure the release of the girls, emphasised that the federal government must do all it could to make sure that the girls are brought back.

“We have stayed firm, knowing that the parents of our girls have not known peace because they have been deprived of their loved ones. Our Chibok girls are the value of systems, citizens of the nation and they matter.”

According to Ezekwezili, the former administration had come and gone on this issue, but the new administration which promised to do everything, went out to campaign and made the rescue of Chibok girls a priority, has failed on its promise.

“When Amina (the Chibok girl that escaped early this year) got out, there wasn’t a radical change on the part of our government, but expectations were high after the commitment made by the government at the Presidential Villa on the rescue of our girls. However, the government like the previous government thought that we would soon get tired.

“With the coming out of the video, there’s a stretch of suffering on our girls and I must say our girls have suffered enough.

“We knew that government was speaking with Ahmed Salkida, how come nothing is coming out of it? Is there really a rescue operation? We are not tired at all; our Chibok girls must be brought back. This is the best opportunity we have.

“If this video did not jolt our government into action, what will? We are going to dance on the day of the rescue of the Chibok girls. We want immediate action on the rescue of our girls. We want their rescue now,” she said.




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About the author

Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field