Acclaimed representative of the Boko Haram Terrorist group who announced the ceasefire on behalf of the group, Mallam Danladi Ahmadu, have Friday assured that that the kidnapped Chibok school girls would be released on Monday.
Speaking to the Hausa service of the Voice of America (VOA), Ahmadu confirmed that the talks between his group and the Federal Government have been largely successful.
He said the final meeting between the group and the Federal Government to seal the ceasefire deal is scheduled for Monday in Ndjamana, Chad, to be supervised by the Chadian President, Idris Derby after which the Chibok girls will be handed to him for onward presentation to the Nigerian government.
Ahmadu denied that the group was behind the latest kidnap of about 60 women and girls in Adamawa and Borno States blaming the recent incessant attacks on political thugs, armed robbers, kidnappers, hired assassins and other anti social elements who carry out their acts under the garb of Boko Haram.
He further assured that the groups leading the council are investigating the latest spate of attacks to determine if any of its members are involved.
Meanwhile, the Chadian foreign ministry has said it believed the deal to free more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists would still go ahead despite the breakdown of a truce, and revealed that the key to the agreement was a prisoner swap.
The truce mediated by Chad for the release of the girls seized from Chibok in northeast Nigeria in April has been called into question since it was announced by the Nigerian military last week.
A deadly bombing in northern Nigeria and new details about kidnappings at the weekend blamed on Boko Haram cast further doubt Thursday on the government’s claim that the Islamists have agreed to a truce.
A ceasefire supposed to be part of the agreement has been broken, and a further 25 girls were abducted this week. But Moussa Mahamat Dago, the No. 2 official at Chad’s foreign ministry, said it appeared some Boko Haram factions were refusing to abide by the deal, brokered by the Chadian foreign minister with two representatives of the Islamist group and two Nigerian negotiators at meetings in Chad on Sept. 14 and 30.
“Quite possibly those who are fighting are dissidents that even they (Boko Haram) aren’t able to control. So far, there is no reason for others to doubt this agreement,” Dago told Reuters late on Thursday in the Chadian capital N’Djamena.
“What I can say is that those that negotiated with the Nigerian government did so in good faith … We are waiting for the next phase which is the release of the girls.”
Dago said the two sides agreed verbally to a series of points summarised in a document he had seen, including the release of the schoolgirls and of jailed Boko Haram fighters.
The Nigerian insurgent group, which has fought a bloody five-year revolt mostly in the northeast, has said it wants to carve out an Islamist enclave in the religiously-mixed nation, Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy.
“The starting condition of Boko Haram was the liberation of some of their members … That is the compensation,” Dago said, adding that the specifics on the names and number of Boko Haram fighters still to be released had not yet been agreed.
Dago said he still expected the girls to be freed, without giving a time frame. The Boko Haram negotiators were no longer in Chad although they had agreed to return in October after freeing the girls to hold more talks, he added.
The first stage of the agreement made was the release of a group of 27 Chinese and Cameroonian hostages by Boko Haram two weeks ago in northern Cameroon, Dago said.
“We remain optimistic. The two sides agreed to find a negotiated solution and to show their good faith they already freed some hostages and announced a ceasefire,” he said.
Dago admitted it would be embarrassing for Chadian President Idriss Deby’s government, which has taken a leading role in security and diplomacy in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region in recent years, if the girls were not freed.
“It would be very disappointing. We are engaged in this now. If this negotiation doesn’t succeed that would be damaging for Chad’s facilitating role,” he said.
The release of the girls would be a boost for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who faces an election in February and has been pilloried at home and abroad for his slow response to the kidnapping and his inability to quell the insurgency.
Boko Haram has not yet commented on the ceasefire. Its fighters have killed thousands of people in raids mostly in Nigeria’s northeast but have also claimed sporadic bomb attacks in the federal capital Abuja and the commercial hub Lagos.
Dago said he was confident that the negotiators had the authority to speak on behalf of Boko Haram’s mercurial and reclusive leader Abubakar Shekau, whom Nigeria’s military has more than once claimed to have killed.
“They are envoys who answer to their leader Shekau who himself confirmed that these emissaries spoke on his behalf. That was confirmed in writing to the Chadian government,” he said, confirming local press reports that the negotiators were named Cheikh Goni Hassane and Cheikh Boukar Umarou.
Chad does not know where the abducted Chibok girls are being held, but Dago said it was likely they were outside of Chad and spread out over a wide area.
The Chinese hostages freed earlier under the agreement were found scattered across northern Cameroon, he said.
“They (Boko Haram) gave us guarantees that the girls are well but we don’t know physically where they are,” he said.
“But they have certainly dispersed them like the Chinese hostages, who were spread out over a large area.”
The two parties planned to meet again for a third time in Chad after the release of the schoolgirls to draft a roadmap to tackle more fundamental issues, Dago said.
“For the next stage of negotiations, the girls need to be freed. We cannot go into details as long as this question remains and it is a requirement of Chad that the girls are released before we start the next stage of talks,” he said.
As reports emerged that extremists seized dozens more women and girls from the remote northeast — leaving a few dollars behind as a so-called ‘bride price’ — fresh violence rocked the town of Azare in Bauchi state.
A police spokesman for the state, Mohammed Haruna, said a bomb blast at a bus station in Azare killed five people, with their bodies “burnt beyond recognition,” and injured 12 others.
No-one claimed responsibility, but Bauchi has been attacked repeatedly throughout Boko Haram’s brutal five-year uprising, which has left more than 10,000 people dead.
Azare resident Musa Babale said the explosion on Wednesday “shook buildings” and sent locals rushing for shelter.
“The whole place was a mess,” he told AFP after visiting the site.
Several witnesses said they believed the bomb had been planted in a parked car, but police did not give details on the nature of the device.
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