FG hires Australian cleric to negotiate release of Chibok girls
The Boko Haram Islamist group has released another video of the abducted schoolgirls, this time making a desperate plea to the Federal Government over the proposed deal for their release.
The Mail on Sunday claimed that eight of the Chibok girls kidnapped from their schools over a month ago in the footage of the new video released by the sect have pleaded for release from their captors.
The video, which the paper described as 'heartbreaking', was said to have been shot in a jungle clearing a month after the girls' abduction and an Australian cleric, Dr. Stephen Davis, said to have been hired by President Goodluck Jonathan, is negotiating for the release of the girls.
Dr. Davis, described as a friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been working secretly in Nigeria for almost a month now, the newspaper said.
Describing how the girls looked on the video, The Mail on Sunday said: 'They are clearly scared, upset and trying to be brave. Each of them walks in turn to a spot in front of a white sheet fixed to a crude frame between the trees.
The video, which is yet to be released publicly, was taken in a jungle a month after the girls' abduction, according to the newspaper's report..
The Mail reported that in the video, eight girls, dressed in their home-made school uniforms of pale blue gingham, pleaded for release.
Each of the girls, the newspaper reported, walked in turn to a spot in front of a white sheet fixed to a crude frame between the trees to speak before the camera. Four of them, it stated, spoke in Hausa language, stating that they were taken by force and that they were hungry.
A tall girl, aged about 18, the report stated, said tearfully: 'My family will be so worried.'
Another, speaking softly, said: 'I never expected to suffer like this in my life,' the report stated, adding that a third said: 'They have taken us away by force.' The fourth girl complained: 'We are not getting enough food,' The Mail reported.
The video, taken by an intermediary on May 19, the newspaper stated, has been shown to President Goodluck Jonathan. It was intended to serve as 'proof of life' for the girls and to encourage the President to accede to the terrorists' demands, it reported.
Two earlier videos showed the girls seated on the ground, dressed in hijabs, reciting the Quran, and Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, declaring he would sell them into slavery or marry them off if members of his sect were not released from prison.
Pressure from the international community and criticism of the President Jonathan's slow response to the kidnapping have led to a series of contradictory pronouncements from the Federal Government. Ministers have declared they will not negotiate with Boko Haram, or consider the release of prisoners, while official spokesmen had said: 'The window is always open for dialogue.'
Intelligence sources told The Mail several rescue attempts, one involving the release of suspected low-level Boko Haram members detained without charges or trial.
Two attempts were aborted at the last minute when the terrorists took fright while delivering a group of girls to a safe location, it reported.
Last week, Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, said the Federal Government knew the location of the girls and claimed that police and military had been 'following them' since the abduction. He refused to divulge details, saying it would put the girls in further danger.
Davis was quoted in the publication as saying 'The vast majority of the Chibok girls are not being held in Nigeria,' he said. 'They are in camps across the Nigerian border in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. I say the 'vast majority' as I know a small group was confirmed to me to be in Nigeria last week when we sought to have them released.'
He described how fraught the negotiation process has been. 'One of that small group of girls is ill and we had hoped we might convince the commander of the group holding her that she should be released so we could give her medical
treatment,' Davis said.
He added: 'There are other girls who are not well and we have come close to having them released but their captors fear a trap in which they will be captured in the handover process.
'One girl has what I assume is a broken wrist as they demonstrate to me how she holds her hand. I have been told that others are sick and in need of medical attention.'
A military source said, however: 'This has been a race against time from the minute they were captured. As soon as the girls left Nigerian soil it was always going to be more difficult.
'The government made no attempt at a rescue until a month after they were taken. Now the situation gets more serious by the day. Any sort of attempt to get to them would have to be cleared by the governments of the other nations.'