Cash Or Prisoners, What Did The Nigeria Govt Swapped For Chiboks Girls?
Since the release of 21 girls who were kidnapped from their secondary school in Chibok, Borno State more than two years ago, there have been conflicting reports about what Boko Haram received in exchange.
The reports contrast what the Nigerian govt said, which is that no prisoner or cash were exchanged for the release of the girls.
“This was not a swap,” Nigerian Information Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed said Thursday. “It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides.”
However, some reports claim prisoners were exchanged for the girls, while some others said the swap involved cash.
While Thisday, quoting presidency source reports that the release of the girls involves cash, a report by CNN is saying some Boko Haram commanders were exchanged for the girls.
Thisday, quoting a presidency source said an undisclosed amount of money was paid to the Boko Haram leaders before the 21 girls were released.
But a CNN report which quoted an anonymous source close to the negotiations between the Islamist militant group and the Nigerian government, “a number of Boko Haram commanders” were freed as part of Thursday’s release of the girls.”
The CCN report also quoted a separate source, one with direct knowledge about the girls’ release, as saying that no captive Boko Haram fighters were released in exchange for the girls.
Further laying credit to the prisoner swap claim is a report by Punch which said troops and security personnel involved in the ongoing counter-terrorism campaign against Boko Haram are unhappy with the release of five top Boko Haram commanders.
The report added that investigations revealed that the military expressed reservations about the swap which saw the release of five terrorist commanders in exchange for the 21 girls.
“Troops and some military commanders are further worried by the fact that the release of terrorist commanders could impact negatively on the ongoing campaign to flush out the insurgents from the North-East.”‘
“It was further gathered that some of the troops were not happy that Boko Haram commanders, who had killed civilians and security personnel, were traded for the girls.”
The fact that the Nigerian government who claimed no swap in the release of the girls have yet to release terms of the agreement in the negotiated deal brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government has helped in leaving room for speculations.
Nonetheless, what appears to be of importance to the country is the safe return of the 21 girls and hope that the others will soon be released.
This much was expressed by Vice president Osinbajo after meeting the girls at the Office of the Department of State Services (DSS), saying Nigerians should congratulate themselves and thank God for the girls’ release.
Osinbajo, who also confirmed the information minister’s assertion that the federal government did not swap the girls for detained members of Boko Haram said said: “We should congratulate ourselves and thank the almighty God for the release and subsequent return home of 21 of the Chibok girls who were taken hostage two years ago.
“It is exciting news for the whole country. Everyone is really excited and I believe that we should be very thankful to God.
“When we started negotiations, we said we would consider all options available to us. Absolutely, there was no exchange of any kind.”
When asked further if the government will agree to future swaps to secure the release of the remaining girls, he replied: “We must be sensitive to the fact that the government wants these girls back and alive.
“Again, we must balance it against the security and safety of the country. In the process of negotiations, we will look at all options and we will weigh the options carefully and decide on what to do.
“But what has happened and the process we have begun is one which has not involved any type of swap of Boko Haram commanders or any militant in any way.
“That is a very good turn of events. We believe that in the next few days and months, we will be bringing in more of these girls using exactly the same kind of negotiations and the same template that we used.”