Nigeria: Govt to Negotiate Release of Dapchi, Chibok Girls

(file photo).
13 March 2018

President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration has opted for negotiation, rather than military action to secure the release of hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.

The girls were taken away from their schools in Chibok, Borno State in April 2014 and Dapchi in Yobe State last month.

President Buhari said this yesterday at a meeting with visiting American Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Buhari said Nigeria was working in concert with international organisations and negotiators, to ensure that the girls were released unharmed by their captors.

"We are trying to be careful. It is better to get our daughters back alive," his spokesman Mr Femi Adesina quoted him as saying at the meeting with Tillerson.

He thanked the United States for the assistance rendered in the fight against insurgency. He noted that Nigerian forces are good, "but need assistance in the areas of training and equipment."

Buhari promised that his administration would continue to do its best to secure the country, adding that he would be in Yobe State, from where Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted, later this week "as part of my condolence and sympathy visits to areas where we have had unfortunate events."

Promises fair polls in 2019

The president pledged to ensure free and fair polls in 2019. He recalled that the then American Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited before the 2015 polls, "and he told the party in government then, and those of us in opposition, to behave ourselves, and we did."

Tillerson commended Buhari for his strides in the anti-corruption war, to which the Nigerian leader responded that funds recovered were being invested in development of infrastructure.

Tillerson said Nigeria was a very important country to the U.S, saying: "You have our support in your challenges. We will also support opportunities to expand the economy, commercial investments, and peaceful polls in 2019."

Nigeria faces other threats - US

Mr. Tillerson said apart from the Boko Haram insurgency, there are other threats Nigeria's leadership has to deal with.

Mr. Tillerson said this at a joint press briefing at the Presidential Villa with Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, after his meeting with President Buhari.

He did not mention the other threats, but assured that the United States was ready to coordinate efforts towards tackling all the threats.

Asked how the US would help in rescuing the Dapchi schoolgirls and how soon the assistance would come, he said America respects the responsibilities of Nigerian government and the territorial integrity of the country.

He said the way the US supported Nigeria was in providing equipment, training personnel of special operations and sharing intelligence to carry out the recovery effort.

Tillerson stated: "But I think it is also important to put this in a broad regional context as well. Boko Haram is a threat to other regions and this has been the subject of my meetings elsewhere and in Africa as well.

"In my discussion with President Derby in Chad earlier today (Monday), we spoke about the threat of Boko Haram and I think it is important and it has really been powerful the collaboration between the joint task force, which Nigeria is a part and Chad is a part, to respond to this threat of terrorism which Boko Haram is one of the organizations. There are other threats that the leadership of this country has to deal with.

"So, the United States is ready to engage and coordinate efforts as well. But we have been supporting, equipping, training and when we can provide information.

"I think that is the best way we have been helping the government of Nigeria secure the release of the girls, which we hope, will be done in a peaceful manner. We hope that something can be worked out and they can secure the release of these girls quickly."

Onyeama said he disagreed that things were getting worse despite the collaboration with the task force and the US.

He sayed though there were threats and the great damage being inflicted by the insurgents, the situation was asymmetric warfare requiring a lot of intelligence.

"There are a lot of efforts and there has been a lot of success, really concrete successes that have been achieved. But clearly, there is still a lot that needs to be done which are why there are these investments.

"Why it appears that these terrorists appear to be emboldened and stronger, when you see the attack in Burkina Faso, well these are soft targets and so difficult sometimes to prevent completely.

"But with greater sharing of intelligence and I think there is greater cooperation now, with G5, Sahel, multinational joint task force have a presence here, we hope to turn the tide very soon," he said.

Asked why Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted despite the government's claim of having degraded the insurgents, Onyeama said fighting terrorism is a global challenge.

The minister dismissed the allegations that it took the government a week to acknowledge the abduction.

"Fighting terrorism is a new challenge globally. When we talked of having degraded Boko Haram, we were referring specifically to the situation that we were confronted when the government took over. That was a situation where you have a classical military confrontation and Boko Haram were capturing territories, holding unto territories y and hoisting flags. So, as a conventional military threat, Boko Haram has been completely degraded.

"Now, there is a challenge with regards to sporadic suicides and bombings and of course, largely, there is kidnapping of the girls. We don't by any strength of imagination minimize those, but it's really a different kind of warfare as it is and the government is sparing no effort in addressing that.

"But it is a different challenge that requires intelligence and also understanding the environment that this kind of unlimited support for Boko Haram indoctrination of young children," Onyeama said.

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