A senator and former government negotiator with Boko Haram, Shehu Sani, yesterday said the schoolgirls abducted in Chibok, Borno State two years ago by insurgents are alive. He said the recent video of the girls released by a Boko Haram source showed the veracity of their parents’ claims.
Sani, who spoke on CNN, said negotiations with Boko Haram for the release of the girls remained frozen, given the military campaign against the insurgents. He cautioned the government on the terms of the negotiation to avoid the pitfalls which prevented the previous administration to secure the release of the girls.
The negotiation, the human rights activist said: “Negotiation at this stage has been frozen, because of the military campaign emphasised by the government. And I believe there is a need to explore the option of negotiation to ensure that the girls are brought back home alive.”
“In the last three to four credible negotiations with the group (Boko Haram) on the issue of the girls, they were emphasising on the need to release their members that have been in detention for years. The issue of ransom came very late. What is important is to get these girls out.
“There are three ways to which we can get them out. One is to negotiate. And secondly is to use force, but the use of force comes with implication and consequences. Thirdly, it is to use force and continue to open the door of negotiation. I believe the third option is very much needed. We need to continue to use force to show it clearly to the insurgents that they can’t win militarily and also to open the door for negotiation, which will make it possible for the girls to be brought back home alive.”
On how the government can recognise the credibility of Boko Haram negotiators, Sani said: “We should be very careful at this time. But, the fact that we can get such a very credible video from some sources; it shows that those sources are elements that need to be used to achieve the goal of getting these girls out…
“I believe Nigeria should take this opportunity. The last government fell into the hands of many scammers, but I believe with such a very credible video, there is hope that these girls are alive. And the sources that provided the video should be used to get the girls out.”
Sani said President Muhammadu Buhari has confronted insurgency with a decisive action, noting that the present administration had made significant progress in ending the problem. He said there was more to do in routing the insurgents, but said the government should not abandon negotiation.
Sani hailed the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners for keeping the abduction on the front burner.