Week-long ceasefire paved way for Dapchi girls’ return- Nigerian government

Solomon Chung, Lagos

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Boko haram demanded a week-long ceasefire that would grant them a safe corridor to drop the Dapchi girls, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture Mr. Lai Mohammed has said.

The Minister disclosed this on Sunday at a press conference in Lagos, South West Nigeria.

According to Mohammed, this is not new. He stated that even in larger war situations, safe corridors are usually created for humanitarian and other purposes.

“There have been wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now. The talks helped to secure the release of the police officers’ wives and the University of Maiduguri lecturers recently. And the talks did not stop thereafter.

“Therefore, we were able to leverage on the wider talks when the Dapchi girls were abducted. As I said earlier, the insurgents decided to return the girls to where they picked them from as a goodwill gesture. All they demanded was a cease fire. Consequently, a week-long ceasefire was declared, starting from Monday, 19 March.”

He said that was why the insurgents were able to drop the girls. This counters the conspiracy theories being propounded in some quarters concerning why it was so easy for the insurgents to drop off the girls without being attacked by the military, he added.

Describing how the operation took place, the Minister said  the Nigerian government neither paid a ransom nor swapped any boko haram member to secure the release of the girls.

“The insurgents brought the girls back to the location of the kidnapping themselves as an apparent gesture of goodwill, following relentless efforts by the Government to find long-lasting solutions to the conflict.”

He described the safe return of the girls as President Muhammadu Buhari’s idea.

“Mr. President had directed all security agencies to do everything possible to bring the girls back unharmed. That dictated the method we adopted-back-channel talks with our international friends as mediators, and the result was the release of the girls.”

Efforts

For the record, the Minister said the Federal Government undertook a very deliberate and proactive approach to secure the release of the girls.

“The President sent FG’s delegation twice to Dapchi and Damaturu, within four days, to engage in fact-finding and to condole with the government and people of Yobe State and the families of the abducted girls.”

He said the President ordered the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take direct charge and brief him on a daily basis on the efforts to bring back the girls.

Also he ordered the re-strengthening of a Joint Operational Base involving relevant agencies and Services to coordinate the rescue mission, the Minister stated.

“Consequently, the Service Commanders established a unified Command Centre in Maiduguri, and the Military also raised several rescue teams to comb the forests, plus a sustained aerial surveillance of the area all through.”

All these deliberate strategies was why this abduction ended about a month after it occurred, and that most of the girls are free, Mr. Mohammed submitted.

The Minister concluded by saying, a total of 107 persons, comprising 105 Dapchi schoolgirls and the two non-students, had been released by the insurgents.

Meanwhile six Dapchi school girls are yet unaccounted for. “All efforts will be made to secure their release,” he concluded.