Donâ€™t swap bomb maker for Chibok girls, groups tell Buhari
Abducted Chibok girls
Some prominent groups and leaders in the North have cautioned the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government against granting Boko Haramâ€™s request for the release of its bomb maker in detention in exchange for the abducted schoolgirls.
The groups and leaders, who backed President Buhari on his offer to grant members of the insurgent group amnesty if they released the Chibok girls, however expressed their disapproval of the swap offer.
The President had on Tuesday announced that the Federal Government had begun negotiations with members of Boko Haram to secure the release of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014.
The President, while responding to questions from members of the Nigerian community in France under the aegis of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, during his visit to the country, stated that he was worried by the continued stay of the girls in the sectâ€™s camps.
Buhari also disclosed that the sect had offered to swap the girls for its Improvised Explosives Devices expert, who is in the governmentâ€™s custody.
Speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday, the Deputy Chairman of the Northern Eldersâ€™ Forum, Dr. Paul Unongo, lauded the negotiation move, saying every war does not end on the battlefield.
While he backed the plan to grant the insurgents amnesty for releasing the girls, he opposed swapping them for the bomb maker in government custody.
He said, â€œThe first issue is, yes, there is negotiation. The second issue is that Boko Haram insurgents have said they will bring back the Chibok girls if we release their bomb maker that has taken the lives of hundreds of Nigerians.
â€œI think as much as we desire that the girls be released, for the government to release a person that has the capacity to produce something that can take the lives of thousands of Nigerians, we are a bit worried.
â€œThe dilemma is, we want the Chibok girls to be released and Boko Haram is driving a major negotiating strategy. It seems they (insurgents) have got our balls and they are squeezing the balls, saying â€˜if we donâ€™t do it, we will squeeze it more.â€™
Unongo, however, said the Federal Governmentâ€™s recent onslaught on the sect would give the government an advantage in the negotiation.
He said the government could also request that the girls be released before Boko Haramâ€™s demands were met.
â€œWhile we are negotiating, we should intensify the battle and make it so uncomfortable for the insurgents that the possibility of them being allowed to speak first is removed.
â€œI think I will rather use that strategy than release a bomb maker who has killed thousands of Nigerians. The man who can make a bomb and with his capacity (to cause destruction), I donâ€™t think we should let him off the hook so easily,â€ he added.
Similarly, the Chairman of the rival Northern Eldersâ€™ Council, Tanko Yakasai, said dialogue was the only solution to the insurgency.
He also said President Buhari had yet to agree to the swap offer made by Boko Haram. He expressed his reservation with releasing the bomb maker for the release of the girls.
Yakasai said, â€œThe President himself did not say he was going to do that. If he is going to release the expert in bomb making, what guarantee has he that when that man is released he will not go and make more bombs that would kill more people?â€
Also, the Convener, Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, stated that Buhari had not said he agreed with the swap offer.
He said the President only told the public what Boko Haram had offered in the negotiation.
â€œBuhari has not accepted that offer,â€ he stated. Mohammed explained that the Federal Government was only negotiating for the release of the girls, after which both sides would return to the battlefield.
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