Saturday Vanguard gathered from top individuals who were involved in the negotiations leading to the release of the girls that most of them were kept by a faction loyal to the son of the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, in areas around Lake Chad while the rest of them were with another faction loyal to Abubakar Shekau.
It was also learnt that out of the 276 Chibok school girls seized by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014, only 104 were not married off by Boko Haram leaders and associates, while some were killed by either bombs, bad weather or lack of medical and food supplies.
“As at the time we entered into negotiation with the Boko Haram group to free the Chibok girls, only 104 were available and ready to be rescued and be re-united with their families. “The remaining 83 girls are with a top leader of Boko Haram and those are the only ones we are going to work for their release in the next phase of our negotiation which starts immediately.
“The others had since become Boko Haram members, having been married off and radicalised into Boko Haram as soon as they were captured over two years ago”, the source said The source, who admitted that the girls were scattered among Boko Haram leaders, however assured that the 21 released on Thursday, never had sex with any of the insurgents, as they stood their grounds that they were not ready to be married off as their colleagues. The source said: “I can assure Nigerians that none of the 104 Chibok girls had sex with any Boko Haram commanders or associates throughout their ordeal.
They stood their grounds that they were not ready to be married off and those who kept them ensured that they were not sexually harassed. “As at the time we got them out, the 104 girls were in one place and they refused to be married to any of the Boko Haram elements. Answering a question on how one of them came about a baby while in captivity, the official said that the mother was among those married off by one of the sect leaders before she was rescued.
One of the local officials backing international agencies involved in the negotiations with Boko Haram to free the girls, confirmed to Saturday Vanguard that while some of the girls were being kept in the dreaded Sambisa Forest by one of the factional leaders of Boko Haram, the rest were scattered in Yobe, Lake Chad region and areas bordering Cameroun for ‘strategic reasons. On how the sect agreed to release the girls, he said that some of the commanders of Boko Haram decided to release only 20 out of the 104 girls to the government as a ‘test of the level of sincerity of the Federal Government to do business with the sect’.
The source pointed out that the ‘extra’ one girl released by the sect to the negotiating team was a ‘mark of appreciation’ by the Boko Haram leadership to the leading Nigerian humanitarian leader, who has been deeply involved in all attempts to make peace between them and the government over the years.
“It is true, we negotiated for the release of 20 of the girls in the first phase of the exercise as a demonstration of government sincerity to do business with the sect but in the end, the leadership released one more captive to us as a gesture of their appreciation of my efforts,” the source explained.
But the split in the ranks of the sect nearly stalled the release of the 21 girls, as Saturday Vanguard learnt from authoritative sources that the bomb blast which rocked Maiduguri on Wednesday, was deliberately orchestrated to disrupt the release of the girls.
However, the release was tactically done in Banki, a remote area outside Maiduguri, thereby taking the heat off the Borno State capital; foiling the plan of the faction opposed to the deal with the government. Although some individuals familiar with the Boko Haram dealings with government have insisted that huge sum of money was paid for the release of the girls, the source swore that the Boko Haram leadership deliberately freed the girls unconditionally so as to earn the confidence of the Federal Government to enter into what he described as ‘binding agreement’ that would be based on agreed terms.
According to the source, the terms would be unfolded by the Boko Haram and Federal Government officials in Abuja. “It is at the proposed meeting in Abuja that the Boko Haram representatives, will formally table their demands, which will certainly include release of their commanders and backers and ransom to end the long-running insurgency in the north,” the source said.
“I want to say at this point that no commander was exchanged with the Chibok girls and no ransom was demanded or paid because the commanders only wanted to build a wall of trust between them and the government so as to begin the process for negotiation which will lead to the end of the crisis. “It is also to be noted that none of the Boko Haram commanders has agreed to be swapped with the Chibok girls because of certain changes that have taken place between when they were arrested and now.
The position of the negotiator tallies with the claim by the Federal Government that neither ransom was paid nor any of the sect commanders swapped with the 21 girls. Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had told journalists in Abuja on Thursday that the release of the girls followed a high level of confidence building measure between the two parties to strike a deal.