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FG – Foreign negotiators involved in bid to free abducted UNIMAID lecturers, others



Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday said three lecturers of the University of Maiduguri, 15 policewomen, 113 Chibok girls and other Nigerians in Boko Haram’s captivity would be freed soon.

This is just as the nation’s service chiefs arrived in Maiduguri, Borno State, on Tuesday, five days after receiving a marching order from Osinbajo.

The Acting President, who addressed #BringBackOurGirls campaigners during their march to the Presidential Villa in Abuja, said the Federal Government had contacted negotiators across the world to ensure their release.

He added that the Presidency was working with negotiators who had in the past assisted in securing the release of former hostages.

The Switzerland Government, the Red Cross and a Borno State-based lawyer, Zannah Mustapha, helped to negotiate the release of  21 Chibok girls in October last year.

Mustapha was also instrumental in the release of 82 Chibok girls in May 2017, after three years in captivity.

Addressing the #BringBackOurGirls members, the Acting President said negotiations were ongoing to secure the release of all Nigerians in Boko Haram captivity.

Osinbajo, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, disclosed that he had been meeting daily with security chiefs to fast-track the release of all hostages being held by the insurgents and kidnappers.

He lauded the BBOG agitators for their resilience, stressing that any country that would develop needed such patriotic and committed citizens to grow.

He said, “On the issue of the policewomen and the girls that are still being held, the Acting President has been meeting with the security chiefs on a daily basis and making contacts with negotiators across the world to secure their release.

“We have not for any moment forgotten any of our children. In the last two weeks, the Acting President has coordinated the release of the Lagos students that were kidnapped.

“There is no way the Acting President or President Muhammadu Buhari will say they are not concerned about the fate of every Nigerians that have been taken by terrorists or kidnappers.”

The Acting President explained that the decision to withhold information on the abducted citizens was for strategic security reasons, noting that a lot was being done behind the scene to free those abducted by the deadly sect.

He reassured Nigerians that more or the rest of the Chibok girls would soon be freed and reunited with their parents.

“The fact that we are not coming out to say what is being done is strategic for security reasons; intelligence is being gathered, very soon, more of the girls, if not all, will be brought back to their parents safely,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, went into a “strategic meeting” as soon as they arrived in Maiduguri, Borno State, on Tuesday.

It was gathered that the meeting was to review operational strategies and initiate the rescue of the abducted University of Maiduguri lecturers.

The service chiefs, who met at about 11am at the Military Command and Control Centre, also had discussions with the Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre Commander, Maj. Gen. Attahiru Ibrahim, and other principal officers of the operation.

“The highlights of the meeting were on identifying Boko Haram terrorists’ sleeper cell locations, flushing the group out of its concentration areas and outpost locations, as well as fishing out the collaborators and informants to the terrorists,” a source said.

The Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, who confirmed the meeting, urged residents of Borno State to furnish the military with the necessary information.

He said, “In compliance with the directive by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to service chiefs to move to Maiduguri, the epicentre of the northeast counter-insurgency operations, the service chiefs have commenced the command and control of the operation.

“The CDS held a briefing with the COAS and the CAS, theatre commander and other principal officers on the reviewed strategic direction and operational plans.

“The armed forces reaffirm their commitment to ensuring that peace is restored to the northeast.”

The BBOG in a statement delivered by Co-convener, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, frowned on the failure of the Federal Government and the police authorities to acknowledge the abduction of 15 policewomen by Boko Haram, which ambushed their convoy on June 26, 2017.

She said the attitude was reminiscent of the denial that followed the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls by the government.

The group demanded the release of the women and the remaining 113 Chibok schoolgirls, saying the pupils had spent 1,250 days in captivity.

The coalition flayed the government for risking the lives of citizens by prospecting for oil in Boko Haram enclave.

“Your workers are in Boko Haram captivity and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri said the search for oil would continue. The oil you have exploited, what did you do with it? We must be an empathetic nation,” Ezekwesili said.

However, when contacted on the role of Switzerland in securing the release of the remaining hostages, the Swiss Embassy spokesman, Pascal Holiger, said, “I can’t comment on the issue for security reasons. Besides, our mission is not directly involved.”

Shortly after the release of 82 Chibok girls in May, Buhari had thanked Switzerland, among others for its help in the release of the girls.

In a report published on May 9, 2017, by a United Kingdom newspaper, IBTimes UK, the spokesperson for the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Noemie Charton, said his country took part in the negotiations that secured the release of the 82 girls.

Also, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was not involved in the negotiations for the abducted UNIMAID lecturers.

The ICRC spokesperson, Ms Matijevic Aleksandra, stated this on Tuesday when contacted for comment on the ongoing negotiations.

She said, “Negotiations are a political process and we are an organisation which does not get involved in politics. Some confuse our role of a neutral intermediary with that of a negotiator. These are two different things.’’ ( PUNCH )

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