Chibok, Dapchi girls’ release: Why we negotiate with Boko Haram, Buhari tells Tillerson

Muhammadu Buhari and  Rex Tilerson
President Muhammadu Buhari and Rex Tilerson

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday told visiting United States Secretary of State, Rex Tilerson, that Nigeria prefers to have schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok and Dapchi back alive, and that is why it has chosen negotiation, rather than a military option.

Receiving the America number one diplomat in an audience at the presidential villa, Abuja, he said that Nigeria was working in concert with international organizations and negotiators, to ensure that the girls were released unharmed by their captors.

“We are trying to be careful. It is better to get our daughters back alive,” the President said.

He thanked America for assistance rendered in the fight against insurgency, noting that Nigerian forces are good, “but need assistance in the areas of training and equipment.”

President Buhari promised that his administration would continue to do its best to secure the country, adding that he would be in Yobe State, from where Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted, later this week “as part of my condolence and sympathy visits to areas where we have had unfortunate events.”

The President pledged free and fair polls in 2019, recalling that the then American Secretary of State, John Kerry, had visited before the 2015 polls, “and he told the party in government then, and those of us in opposition, to behave ourselves, and we did.”

Dapchi girls: Abductors want to surrender ―Aisha Wakil

The visiting Secretary of State commended President Buhari on his strides in the anti-corruption war, to which the Nigerian leader responded that money recovered is being invested on the development of infrastructure.

Mr Tillerson said Nigeria was a very important country to the U.S, stressing: “You have our support in your challenges. We will also support opportunities to expand the economy, commercial investments, and peaceful polls in 2019.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Secretary of State has expressed the hope that school girls from both Chibok and would be released peacefully through some sort of negotiation.

Addressing a joint press conference with Minister of a Foreign Affairs, Geofrey Onyeama, after the meeting with the president, he also stressed the assistance his government was giving to Nigeria towards rescuing the girls and their Chibok counterparts still in Boko Haram captivity, including providing materials, intelligence training, among others.

He affirmed that Boko Haram remains a threat not just to Nigeria but the subregion.

Tilerson commended President Buhari for leading the subregion in the fight against terrorism as well as his fight against corruption which he noted had earned the president recognition at the African Union.

Asked what the U.S can do to rescue the girls, Tillerson said: “First, we respect the responsibilities of the government of Nigeria and the territorial integrity of Nigeria. But the way we support is in providing them capability, capacity with equipment and also training of the personnel of special operations and sharing intelligence to ensure that they have all the information available to carry out the recovery effort.

“But I think it is also important to put this in a broad regional context as well.

“Boko Haram is a threat to other region and this has been the subject of my meetings elsewhere and in Africa as well.

“In my discussion with President (Idris) Derby in Chad earlier today (Monday), we spoke about the threat of Boko Haram and I think it is important and it’s really been powerful, the collaboration between the joint task force which Nigeria is a part and Chad is a part, to respond to this threat of terrorism which Boko Haram is one of the organizations. There are other threats that the leadership of this country has to deal with.

“So, the United States is ready to engage and coordinate efforts as well.

“But we have been supporting, equipping, training and when we can provide information.

“I think that is the best way we have been helping the government of Nigeria secure the release of the girls, which we hope, will be done in a peaceful manner.

“We hope that something can be worked out and they can secure the release of these girls quickly.”

Also speaking on Boko Haram, Onyeama insisted that the terrorist group had been degraded as a fighting force even though it can still inflict serious damage on soft targets.

He said: “As regards whether things are not getting worse in the fight against terrorism, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that that accurately represents the situation.

“There is no doubt that the threats are there, there is no doubt that the damage that they are capable of and are actually inflicting is great and this explains of course why there are so many countries involved and now establishing presence militarily in parts of the continent.

“But it’s is work in progress, if I can use the word work to describe that kind of activity. It requires a lot of intelligence and like I said, is asymmetric warfare that a lot of countries in this part of the continent are not just prepared for.

“There is a lot of effort and there has been a lot of success, really concrete successes that have been achieved.

“But clearly, there is still a lot that needs to be done which is why there are these investments.

“Why it appears that these terrorists appear to be emboldened and stronger, when you see the attack in Burkina Faso, well these are soft targets and so difficult sometimes to prevent completely, but with greater sharing of intelligence and I think there is greater cooperation now, with G5, Sahel, multinational joint task force have a presence here, we hope to turn the tide very soon.”