THE Federal Government is willing to swap Boko Haram detainees with Chibok girls abducted by the terrorist group as long as it was convinced that it was dealing with the right leaders of the group which has custody of the girls.
President Muhammadu Buhari gave this hint during an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the ongoing sixth Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD VI) in Nairobi, Kenya.
He said government was ready to discuss the release of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram terror group since April 2014.
While observing that there has been a split in the leadership of the insurgent group, Buhari advised that if the bonafide leaders of the group were not comfortable with negotiating with government, they could search out a credible inter international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) by themselves which they could trust to work with.
He said: “I have made a couple of comments on the Chibok girls and it seems to me that much of it has been politicised.
‘‘What we said is that the government which I preside over is prepared to talk to bonafide leaders of Boko Haram.
‘‘If they do not want to talk to us directly, let them pick an internationally recognised Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), convince them that they are holding the girls and that they want Nigeria to release a number of Boko Haram leaders in detention, which they are supposed to know.
‘‘If they do it through the ‘modified leadership’ of Boko Haram and they talk with an internationally recognized NGO then Nigeria will be prepared to discuss for their release.”
President Buhari however warned that the Federal Government will not waste time and resources with “doubtful sources’’ claiming to know the whereabouts of the girls.
He further stated: ‘‘We want those girls out and safe. The faster we can recover them and hand them over to their parents, the better for us.’’
The President maintained that the terror group, which pledged allegiance to ISIS, has been largely decimated by the gallant Nigerian military with the support of immediate neighbours from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin.
According to him, ‘‘Some of the information about the division in Boko Haram is already in the press and I have read in the papers about the conflict in their leadership.
‘‘The person known in Nigeria as their leader, we understand was edged out and the Nigerian members of Boko Haram started turning themselves to the Nigerian military.
‘‘We learnt that in an air strike by the Nigeria Air Force he was wounded. Indeed their top hierarchy and lower cadre have a problem and we know this because when we came into power, they were holding 14 out of the 774 local governments in Nigeria.
“But now they are not holding any territory and they have split to small groups attacking soft targets.”
On the militancy in the Niger Delta region, the President said the Federal Government was also open to dialogue to resolve all contending issues in the area, expressing doubts that the militants were ready for a ceasefire.
‘‘We do not believe that they (the militants) have announced ceasefire. We are trying to understand them more. Who are their leaders and which areas do they operate and other relevant issues,’’ he said.