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Friday, 15 April 2016

Video shames those who doubt girls’ abduction


Kaduna State-born Senator Shehu Sani is vice chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He spoke with CNN on the authenticity of the ‘proof of life’ of the Chibok girls.

This proof of life video is clearly significant when it comes to negotiations to get the girls back and in fact, suggests that negotiations are, indeed, ongoing. What do you know of the state of the talks, reports of demands for money and so on?
Well, first of all, I will say that this video is credible. And it affirms the very fact that the girls are alive and there is hope that they will get back home some day.
It also sends a clear message that those who were thinking — and there was no abduction, that there was an actually abduction that happened two years ago.
Negotiation at this stage has been frozen. The military complaint is emphasized by the government. And I believe that there is a need to explore the options of negotiation to ensure that the girls are brought back home alive.
And, obviously, the girls are valuable to Boko Haram. The question is going to be, what would the group want in return? Would it be money? Would it be the release of perhaps captured leaders? And would the government be willing to pay the price?
Well, in the last three to four credible negotiations with the group, on the issue of the girls, they were emphasizing on the need to release their members that have been in detention for years. And the issue of ransom came very late.
What is most important is to get these girls out. There are three ways to which we can get them out. One is to negotiate and, secondly, is to use force. But the use of force comes with implications and the consequences.
And thirdly is to use force and continue to open the door of negotiation, which I believe the third option is what is very much needed. We need to continue to use force, to show it clearly to the insurgents that they cannot win militarily and also to open a door for negotiation, which will make it possible for these girls to be brought back home alive.
You are, yourself, a former negotiator. I’m curious, when it comes to a group like Boko Haram, how do you know who you’re negotiating with? Whether it’s a group or a leader who can actually deliver what they might be promising because, in some cases, it’s been shown that negotiations are with people who can’t deliver.
Well, what has always been the problems in the last few months or years has been the very fact that negotiators most times come in and make claims and don’t deliver. And I think this is what we should be very careful at this very time.
But the very fact that we can get such a credible video from some sources shows that those very sources, elements that need to be used, to be utilised, to be able to achieve the goal of getting these girls out.
We should understand very clearly that negotiations have taken place in a number of countries. There were negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas, which elected the release of some Israeli soldiers, the same thing with the Taliban and Americans, broke up by Qatar.
And I believe that Nigeria should take this opportunity. The last government fell into the hands of many scammers but I believe that, with such a credible video — and there is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel that these girls are alive — and that very source that provided this video shall be used to get these girls out.
When we last spoke to you, it was a year ago or so. You said that you hoped that Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency coming after Goodluck Jonathan, you hoped that his new presidency would usher in a fresh beginning in terms of trying to get the girls out. They’re not out. So has the administration failed in some respect? It says it has technically defeated Boko Haram. And yet, here we are, talking about hundreds of abducted girls.
When President Muhammadu Buhari took over — and that is when we came to the office as parliamentarians — a section of our country was taken over by the insurgent group. They hoisted their flags and even unleashing their version of theocratic Islamic rule.
But now, with funding for the military — and the morale is high and support by the government to the army — they have been able to push them back and most of the cities in the north is safe.
Buhari has not been able to achieve 100 percent success but he has made serious progress. But I believe that he can still achieve more, with the very fact that now they know clearly they cannot win militarily and the only option is to look for other ways. And there is no doubt, what I’ve done for them to agree to negotiate on the release of these girls.
You know, everybody’s been focused on them. And that’s a good thing, in a way, to have this whole issue at the forefront of people’s minds. But they are just emblematic, aren’t they? There are hundreds and hundreds of others who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram. I think, in one incident last year, they abducted 400 people, including 300 elementary school students. This was in a town in the northeast. So this is a massive problem. It’s not just about the Chibok girls, right?
Well, the complaint for the release of these Chibok girls is very much. It keeps the issue on the spotlight and also keeps people in the position of power on their feet. Without that very complaint, the issue of Chibok will easily have been (forgotten), so the agitation for the release of the girls comes to symbolise the civil resistance against the insurgency.
And I believe what is very much need is for the campaign to continue. The government has been pressurised to continue to maintain an action because they know very well that there is a group outside that is consistently and continuously sensitising and mobilising the people to keep watch and keep government on its toes.
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