Lawyers to Fed. Govt: explore negotiation option

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
May 14th, 2014
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Some senior lawyers urged the Federal Government to explore the negotiation option in the bid rescue the abducted school girls.

They said if it means trading detained Boko Haram members for the girls, the government must do all in its power to free the girls.

According to them, the victims are too young to be left for too long in the hands of the terrorists.

A former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) said: “My view is that the government should not close any option in the light of the people the terrorists are holding.

“You’re talking about young schoolgirls. That in itself will inform a different consideration entirely. We should not toy with them.

“They should consider the fact that these are young girls that are with these terrorists,” he said.

Professor of Law, Itse Sagay (SAN) said the government has no choice but to negotiate with the terrorists, noting that the lives of the innocent girls were more valuable than those of Boko Haram suspects in prison custody.

“Is keeping the Boko Haram detainees in prison custody more important than the lives of those innocent girls?

“Government should negotiate with Boko Haram, if at the end of the negotiation, the way out is to surrender some of the detainees for our girls, so be it.

“I am not saying the government should take Boko Haram’s demands for it. There should be negotiations with the group,” he said.

Elder Paul Ananaba (SAN) said while it is no longer fashionable for government around the world to come out openly to say they are negotiating with terrorists, all options should be explored in this instance.

“The fact that they said some parents have recognised some of the girls and they can be rescued, my advice to government is to study thoroughly the offer of the swap and weigh the possibilities. Getting the girls rescued must be the priority.

“In essence, what I am saying is that if the best option available is to negotiate, they should weigh it carefully and come up with the best approach of going about it in the best interest of the girls, the parents and the country.

“There are people who are specialised in negotiating with terrorists and I think we should tap from their experience in this situation.

“If you are a parent and your girl is there, you would want to be on the side of the devil for negotiation and get your girl rescued.

“So, if it is the most viable thing to do, they should go ahead. I would give an example in this case. They are still searching for people in the Malaysian plane that crashed weeks ago even though there is no hope.

“So, rescuing the girls must be the primary thing to do. Any other step can follow.”

Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN) said Nigeria shoud make any sacrifice to free the girls.

“The life of these children are more precious than that of any suspect or prisoner. It is better to release all these prisoners to their groups in exchange for these girls who have so many years to live and too young to be in that situation.

“They should be rescued and after that government can then face them, all these criminals. Whatever sacrifice Nigeria can make to get these girls released is not too much.

“Let these people (detained Boko Haram members) go and for the girls to be released. We can go and confront them later because we are afraid for the lives of these girls,” Fagbohungbe said.

Some lawyers, however, hold a different view. Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN) said: “I see the demand as a cheap blackmail. It will set a dangerous precedent to trade criminals for innocent underage secondary school children!

“We must not sacrifice decency on the altar of expediency.”

For Professor of law, Akin Oyebode, trading off the girls for terrorists in detention would be a sign of failure and downright helplessness by the government.

He stated that only Prisoners of War (POW) are traded and the said exchange is usually arranged by Red Cross.

“It is sacrilegious and a sign of weakness which should not be encouraged because it will encourage other armed groups to see mass hostage taking as an avenue to meet their demands from government.

“It is tantamount to surrendering to evil forces. Boko Haram have no conscience and an insatiable appetite for violence. How are we sure they won’t make more far reaching demands?” He queried.

Chairman, NBA Ikeja Branch, Mr Yinka Farounbi, said: “I am a father, so I can imagine the feelings and the pains the parents must be going through. But honestly, and this is my candid opinion, you don’t negotiate with terrorists. When you negotiate with terrorits, you are giving them more powers; you are conferring legitimacy on them. What they did to these children is criminal.

“I am a parent and I can feel what they feel and I know that they want their children back. But when a government of a nation is negotiating with terrorists, it is a dangerous thing.

“Other ways, other means should be deployed to get these children released from the claws of the terrorists. We have gotten assistance from USA, Britain, France, China among others.

“It is only when these prove to be ineffective that the issue of negotiation can come and it should last option. Government should look at the other side of the coin and not engage in negotiation now. It should deploy other means,” Farounbi said.

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