Posted by News Express | 20 May 2014 | 3,560 times
Vice-President Namadi Sambo is coordinating secret negotiations with Boko Haram for the release of the over 200 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, abducted on April 14, it has been reported. The Federal Government is being represented at the talks by “some clerics and elders in the North,” according to The Nation.
News Express had on Sunday reported that the Nigerian Government and Boko Haram had reached a preliminary agreement for the phased release of the girls in exchange for imprisoned Boko members and arrested family members but not for the group’s commanders as earlier requested by the leader, Abubakar Shekau. The report, based on an earlier one by The Telegraph of Britain, said Boko Haram was being represented in the talks by some northern Muslim clerics whose identity must be kept secret.
“It was, however, stressed that the talks had nothing to do with ‘outright negotiation’ with the sect because the Terrorism Act forbids payment of ransom,” The Nation reported this morning.
“Some of those involved in the talks have met the Vice-President up to five times, it was learnt. It was also learnt that the facilitators include some elders from Borno State who have links with some coordinators of Boko Haram,” it added.
The paper quoted a source in the Presidency, who pleaded not to be named because he is not allowed to talk on the issue, as saying: “The government has been engaging Boko Haram through the backdoor. This is being coordinated by the Vice-President.
“The insurgents used to send representatives or emissaries to some of these Northern/ Borno elders and clerics we have engaged.
“These leaders and clerics also give us feedback on their demands which centre on the need to stop military action against them; putting an end to mass arrests of their members and detention; and the release of detained Boko Haram members.
“The government is actually not negotiating with the insurgents, it is just discussing with them on the basis of ceasefire and the release of the innocent girls.
“We hope that there will be a mutual understanding which will be respected by both parties. Our ultimate objective is to secure the release of the girls.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The way we do it is that we feel their pulse or demand through some of these elders/clerics or leaders who are known to them. We also tell them what we want.
“In fact, some of these facilitators of the talks have admitted that the Boko Haram leaders are known to them.
“We are not negotiating because even those who want to assist us do not support negotiation.”
Another source said: “I can only tell you that a lot of underground work is being done to set the abducted girls free.
“The latest challenge to the underground talks is the meeting in France where all the nations have agreed to join forces against the sect.
“This development in Paris on Sunday is making the sect to have a rethink if the ongoing talks should continue or not.
“In the next few days, we should know where we are going.”
A security source said: “There is no doubt that the government has been having indirect contacts with Boko Haram.”
•Photo shows Vice President Namadi Sambo.
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