Abuja has given an insight into the negotiations that led to the release of 21 Chibok school girls on Thursday morning.
The girls –nearly 300 – were abducted by the Boko Haram sect on April 14, 2014, from a secondary school in Chibok, while some 50 of the girls managed to escape and about 218 of them are still missing.
Previous efforts by two Nigerian administrations to free the girls were not successful. The latest success came after the intervention of the Red Cross and the Swiss government.
“The release of the girls, in a limited number is the outcome of negotiations between the administration and the Boko Haram brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government,” a statement issued by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said.
Abuja sources hinted that the exchange took place Wednesday night when Nigerian military officials, alongside personnel of United Nations, Red Cross and National Emergency Management Agency, conveyed four Boko Haram militants by a chopper to Banki, a border town in Bama local government area of Borno State.
There, 21 released girls were picked up. The girls were brought into Maiduguri Air Force base at about 8.30a.m.
A source said most of the girls had babies.They were immediately flown to Abuja at 9a.m.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has denied that the federal government swapped some Boko Haram prisoners for the 21 Chibok girls released
Addressing a press conference on the release of the abducted girls, Mr. Mohammed said the girls were released following credible information from trusted negotiators among the leadership of Boko Haram.
He explained that the president, Muhammadu Buhari, gave directives to officials of the State Security Service after it was certain that the release of the girls was possible, based on the information provided.
“The moment we had a credible lead, we built confidence on our sources and the president gave authorities to the SSS to pursue the release if the girls.
“As soon as the necessary confidence was built on both sides, the parties agreed on the date and the location of the release of the 21 girls. Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the
product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides.
“As soon as agreements were reached; the parties decided on a place of exchange and the girls were released.
“They were immediately flown to Kaduna state where they are expected shortly; this afternoon to Abuja”, he said.