After over one months of playing the ostrich, the Federal Government has begun talks with Boko Haram on how to free the abducted Chibok girls. The government is also asking the sect to hold its fire in the interest of both parties.
But Boko Haram is also making demands. The dreaded group is saying that the military pulls the brakes on its action against its members. The insurgents have also kicked against arrest of their brethren and their detention without trial.
According to sources, the “backdoor” talks are being coordinated by Vice-President Namadi Sambo through some clerics and elders in the North. Some of those involved in the talks have met the Vice-President up to five times.
It was, however, stressed that the talks is through the back door because the Terrorism Act forbids payment of ransom to such groups.
A source in the Presidency, who pleaded not to be named because he is not allowed to talk on the issue, told The Naion: “The government has been engaging Boko Haram through the backdoor. This is being coordinated by the Vice-President.
“The insurgents used to send representatives or emissaries to some of these Northern/Borno elders and clerics we have engaged. These leaders and clerics also give us feedback on their demands which centre on the need to stop military action against them; putting an end to mass arrests of their members and detention; and the release of detained Boko Haram members.
“The government is actually not negotiating with the insurgents, it is just discussing with them on the basis of ceasefire and the release of the innocent girls.
“We hope that there will be a mutual understanding which will be respected by both parties. Our ultimate objective is to secure the release of the girls.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The way we do it is that we feel their pulse or demand through some of these elders/clerics or leaders who are known to them. We also tell them what we want.”
Another source said: “I can only tell you that a lot of underground work is being done to set the abducted girls free. The latest challenge to the underground talks is the meeting in France where all the nations have agreed to join forces against the sect.
“This development in Paris on Sunday is making the sect to have a rethink if the ongoing talks should continue or not. In the next few days, we should know where we are going.”
A security source said: “There is no doubt government has been having indirect contacts with Boko Haram.”