Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday, said the Federal Government was yet to resolve the issue of six out of the 111 girls abducted from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State on February 19.
He said while the insurgents responsible for the abduction had returned 105 girls, the government has been asking them daily what happened to five girls.
He said the government had also been asking what is delaying the release of Leah Sharibu who was reported to have been denied freedom because of her refusal to deny her faith.
Mohammed gave the clarification while answering questions from State House correspondents at the end of the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Although five of the girls were reported to have died in captivity, the minister said the government needed to be informed of their fate formally.
He, however, admitted that the process of negotiation with insurgents is tortuous and complicated.
This notwithstanding, the minister said the government was not leaving Sharibu to her fate.
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He said, “I think Mr. President actually addressed that issue in Washington and my position is always the same: that we are yet to resolve the issue of six girls.
“111 girls were kidnapped, 105 were returned and we are busy on daily basis asking and negotiating and asking what happened to those five officially at least and then what is delaying the young girl, Leah Sharibu.
“Negotiations with insurgents are quite tortuous and complicated at times but I can assure you we are not leaving her to her fate and those who should are daily busy working on her release.”
Asked what is torturous about the negotiations since the terrorists released the 111 girls in broad daylight, the minister said, “Anybody who negotiates with insurgents and terrorists in the world will know that is not a direct face-to-face negotiation like we are doing now.”
The terrorists had since February 19 kept Sharibu when she was abducted alongside her schoolmates.
Sharibu, whose 15th birthday was marked by her family on Monday, was not released along with her mates one month after the kidnapping because she reportedly rejected the demand of her abductors to denounce her faith and become a Muslim.
The Boko Haram insurgents who made a big show of returning the abducted girls to Dapchi in a convoy of vehicles, and even addressed crowds in the town, without a confrontation from security forces, have kept mute about her.
Sharibu’s continued captivity has been eliciting concern from Nigerians who demand more positive action from government to ensure her release, along with abducted Chibok schoolgirls.
The issue also came up during talks between President Muhammadu Buhari and President Donald Trump, in Washington earlier this month.