Should FG swap Chibok girls for Boko Haram terrorists?
Nigeria is ready to talk to Boko Haram for the release of more than 200 abducted school girls, a minister was quoted by the BBC as saying. Minister of Special Duties Tanimu Turaki said if Boko Haram was sincere, its leader Abubakar Shekau should send people he trusts to meet the standing committee on reconciliation. Many Nigerians – politicians, lawyers, public affairs analysts and others – are for dialogue to free the girls – should the need arise. Some are, however, opposed to “talking with terrorists”.
Sir Olaniwun Ajayi said:
Afenifere chieftain and delegate to the National Conference Sir Ajayi rejected the sect’s proposal, saying that it is devoid of logic and no basis can be found for it in law and morality.
He queried: “Which country is that practiced? People offended the state. Their ring leaders who sent them on an unlawful errand to invade a school and take the innocent girls are giving conditions. They are saying that their members in detention should be released before they release the girls. Where is that done in the world?
“A thief invaded a house. Then, the thief is saying that, before what is stolen can be returned, you have to pay money to the thieves. No government can do that. Our government should not do that. In other countries, the sect members would have been apprehended by now”.
Another Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said:
“The government has done the right thing by exploring dialogue as route to the solution to the problem. But, it is legally and morally wrong to propose the release of the Boko Haram suspects in prison in exchange for the innocent girls. That is not acceptable”.
A delegate to the National Conference, Senator Olabiyi Durojaye, said:
“The people terrorising the country cannot give terms and their demands are irritating.”
He stressed: ‘It is the height of ignorance. You have harmed people and you are asking that some people should be released from detention before you can release the girls. They are trying to ridicule the government and our nation. I am not happy about the whole situation. There are experts who can handle the negotiation with the sect. But, their condition is not right”.
Former Kaduna State Governor Balarabe Musa said:
“The Federal Government should accept it, if it will encourage dialogue. The two sides are holding hostages, although the Federal Government may say it is holding criminals. It may be the beginning of peaceful settlement of the problem. The Federal Government has no alternative than to dialogue. The offer should be accepted as it will give room for meaningful dialogue.”
Former Lagos State Deputy Governor Rafiu Jafojo said:
“It is unfortunate and uncalled for. Icannot support that. The children have nothing to do with their claims, what they want and what they are fighting for. If they want to fight the government as terrorist, they can fight the government. But, they cannot be seizing girls. Why should they go to schools to disrupt the peace of the place?
“I don’t support the idea of unconditional release of the innocent girls. Let them release the children to their families and embrace dialogue. Why should faceless people give conditions to government?
Lagos state House of Assembly majority leader Dr. Jibayo Adeyeye said:
“While nothing would be too much on the side of the government to ensure that the girls are released and reunited with their families. The government should however be weary of succumbing to demand by terrorists as it would send a wrong signal in future to others who would want to blackmail the nation when it is faced with such situation in future. I think the Federal Government should follow the lead from the release video about the girls and track them down while it buys time with the exchange proposal.
Rights activist Mike Ozekhome said:
It was former President of America JF Kennedy, who said you should never negotiate out of fear. There are times that we have to stoop to conquer. We are talking of lives here; we are talking of little children, fairly between the ages of 10 and 16 years, taking into the wilderness by Boko.
The parents of these little children are traumatised, they cannot sleep, and they cannot eat. They do not know the fate of their children. Shekau has said initially that he will sell the girls into slavery; he has changed his position to exchanging them for the arrested Boko Haram people. The question now is what is the way out? The Turaki Committee’s primary purpose is to see how they can negotiate, so as to end the insurgency. I therefore, do no say that the idea of negotiation with Boko Haram is so alien to the government, that it is suddenly a taboo. The government has been accused that it was playing a game of stick and carrot. We are now talking about human lives. This is one area where I throw my weight behind the government of Nigeria, to negotiate with these people to release these little innocent girls. Some of who will become ministers, governors and top government functionaries in Nigeria.
Abubakar Tsav, former commissioner of police, Lagos States has mixed feelings about the matter. He is fully in support of negotiation with the insurgents “for the sake of the girls, who are innocent and should not be made to suffer for what they did not cause.” He added: “One could also consider this from the point of view of their parents who are now in trauma and do not know what next to do. So, on humanitarian grounds, yes, I am for negotiation. In the interest of peace, anything we can do to bring back these girls would be welcomed.” He said America at one point or the other exchanged prisoners with people they considered as terrorists, to effect the release of their citizens.
But on the other hand, Tsav insists such an idea is arrant nonsense. His words: “These people have killed a lot of Nigerians; they have destabilised this country; and they have bombed churches and mosques. Seen from that perspective, it is not proper. If we do it, we would be indirectly supporting terrorism.”
The former police commissioner said Nigeria’s problem was that when President Goodluck Jonathan was advised to negotiate with them at the outset, he refused, saying he cannot negotiate with ghosts. “Now these ghosts are disturbing the whole country. So, I think those who are advising the President are not advising him well,” he added. Besides, he said the area where the girls were abducted is under emergency rule, and that the security agencies failed in their duty to protect the citizens. Tsav wondered whether there is any sort of connivance between some of the soldiers and Boko Haram members.
Chief Niyi Akintola said:
“Boko Haram demand as unjustifiable, unreasonable and should be rejected by the Federal government.
“The Federal Government should not succumb to blackmail. It should not compromise anything. Those who had committed crimes against humanity cannot dictate terms of their release from detention. They should account for their crimes.
“On what basis should the government negotiate with them. Their demand is totally unacceptable. The whole world is against them, everybody is angry with them. We should condemn Boko Haram’s act.
Afenifere chieftain, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, said:
“Even though human lives are involved, government should not negotiate with murderers.”
Mr. Chris Uche (SAN) advised government to leave every option open. He urged the Jonathan administration to explore all options and possibilities to get the girls back to their parents.
Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Second Republic politician said:
“This does not necessarily mean that government should accede to all the demands of the terrorists. I believe in the course of negotiation, a middle course may be found,” he said from his base in Kano on the telephone, adding: “It is important that the door of negotiation should not be shut.”
Yakassai, who was special adviser to Second Republic President Shehu Shagari on National Assembly Affairs, said the Federal Government had not entirely ruled out negotiation, and that his understanding of government’s position is that it may resort to negotiation when the need arises.
Dr. Jerry Chukwuokolo, an Enugu lawyer and rights activist said:
“The whole idea is absurd.”
He argued that Boko Haram insurgents cannot be compared with Niger Delta militants in anyway. He said: “We were able to negotiate with the militants because we saw them, but these insurgents who are they?
“Secondly, what they have done to fellow Nigerians without justification is heinous; how can we be negotiating with such elements? In fact, I’m beginning to think that the whole thing is being orchestrated. These girls have been in the custody of the terrorists for only three weeks, but they can now recite lengthy passages in the Quran; majority of these girls are Christians, I don’t think it is possible.”
Former Information Minister, Prince Tony Momoh said:
“In my own personal opinion and as a Nigerian, I believe that the President is in a big dilemma. If he refuses to negotiate and any of the children dies, people will not forgive the President.
“The President himself said he does not want to win an election, if the blood of one person would be shed. People will be looking at those areas, personally, I believe in communication.
“Communication is the only way crisis can be resolved not through war. At a particular time, in the affairs of men, if there is war, there must be talking. In this regard, my own policy at any time an issue arises or there is a disagreement, I would like to achieve peace through talking.
“I don’t believe in war, so with that mind set and we have these kids being held by Boko Haram and they are saying the only way to release them is through negotiation, I will negotiate. To say you will not negotiate, people will put the blame on you if anything untoward happen to them.
“So, if I was him, I will reach out behind the scene to them to have these girls brought back home. That is the main thing. If any of them dies and we look at the situation, the President will never escape an accusation of intransigence. If they are strong enough to be in possession of our 200 daughters, I will insist on negotiation. If they say release our prisoners, will they go and seek asylum outside Nigeria? If that is the condition to bring back our children, we must not be big headed to say we will not negotiate. If those children die Jonathan will never be forgiven.”
Former President Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Olasupo Ojo said:
“A country like America’s standing policy is that you don’t negotiate with terrorists, no matter who the President is. Nigeria has no clear policy, so, it means it is at the discretion of who is the President, to decide what happens. This is the approach that President Jonathan will follow. He is not courageous, he is not bold, he is not a firebrand, and he does not have the gut. So, you can be assured he would prefer negotiation.”
Yobe State House of Assembly Adamu Dala Dogo, said:
“Negotiation with Boko Haram is another solution to the release of the abducted girls.”
“The Federal Government should negotiate with Boko Haram and bring back our girls. But the Boko Haram should also send their delegates to come and negotiate with the Federal Government because government cannot negotiate with faceless people.
“I think negotiation is another way of solving the problem while the government is considering other options. The use of force will put the life of those girls on the line and that is the least that the parents of these girls and any other Nigerian expect.
“The Federal Government must act responsibly and fast too because time is running out on this matter.”
Tanimu Turaki, Minister of Special Duties:
“What I said is that we are willing to dialogue with them. And that’s why the Government set the Presidential Committee on a Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges even before the abduction of the Chibok girls. We want to have comprehensive discussions with them through dialogue, that will lead to the peaceful resolution of all issues, including but not limited to the release of the abducted girls. I didn’t say negotiation because that is too restrictive in the present circumstances.”
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