President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the preparedness of the Federal Government to discuss the release of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram terror group since 2014,
In an interview with journalists in Nairobi, Kenya at the weekend, President Buhari said the Nigerian government is ready to dialogue with bonafide leaders of the terror group who know the whereabouts of the girls.
A statement by Garba Shehu, the President’s Media aide, also quoted the President as saying that his administration will diligently ensure full rehabilitation of victims of Boko Haram and find lasting solutions to combat threats of terrorism in the country,
“I have made a couple of comments on the Chibok girls and it seems to me that much of it has been politicised.
“What we said is that the government which I preside over is prepared to talk to bonafide leaders of Boko Haram.
“If they do not want to talk to us directly, let them pick an internationally recognised Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), convince them that they are holding the girls and that they want Nigeria to release a number of Boko Haram leaders in detention, which they are supposed to know.
“If they do it through the ‘modified leadership’ of Boko Haram and they talk with an internationally recognised NGO then Nigeria will be prepared to discuss for their release,” he said.
President Buhari, who spoke to the media on the margins of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), warned that the Federal Government will not waste time and resources with “doubtful sources’’ claiming to know the whereabouts of the girls.
‘‘We want those girls out and safe. The faster we can recover them and hand them over to their parents, the better for us.’’
The President maintained that the terror group, which pledged allegiance to ISIS, has been largely decimated by the gallant Nigerian military with the support of immediate neighbours from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin.
‘‘Some of the information about the division in Boko Haram is already in the press and I have read in the papers about the conflict in their leadership.
‘‘The person known in Nigeria as their leader, we understand was edged out and the Nigerian members of Boko Haram started turning themselves to the Nigerian military.
‘‘We learnt that in an air strike by the Nigeria Air Force he was wounded. Indeed their top hierarchy and lower cadre have a problem and we know this because when we came into power, they were holding 14 out of the 774 local governments in Nigeria. But now they are not holding any territory and they have split to small groups attacking soft targets.
On the militancy in the Niger Delta region, the President said the Federal Government is also open to dialogue to resolve all contending issues in the area.
‘‘We do not believe that they (the militants) have announced ceasefire. We are trying to understand them more. Who are their leaders and which areas do they operate and other relevant issues,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, speaking at the opening of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), President Buhari reaffirmed that Boko Haram terrorists have been degraded, even as the reintegration of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country receives immediate attention.
Acknowledging Japanese assistance through UNICEF in the rehabilitation of the victims of Boko Haram, the President commended development partners for their work geared towards improving the lives of some 2 million IDPs in the country.
He also said Nigeria will diligently ensure full rehabilitation of victims of Boko Haram and find lasting solutions to combat threats of terrorism in the country.
“The bottom line is that these problems are our primary responsibility. We must tackle them and find lasting solutions for ourselves,’’ he said.
President Buhari told the summit attended by Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, some 35 African leaders and chief executives of at least 80 major companies from Japan, that international cooperation with Nigeria was central in the decimation of Boko Haram terror group.
”I took over the mantle of leadership in Nigeria when the North-Eastern part of the country was being ravaged by Boko Haram.
”However, soon after assumption of office, our administration with the support of our immediate neighbours — Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin- and international partners including Japan, faced the challenge frontally. `
”As I speak, the terror group has been decimated, and life is beginning to return to normal in the affected region. The challenge we currently face which is also being addressed, is that of the IDPs which number over two million to get them re-integrated with their families and their original homes,’’ he said.
On global health issues, which are a major focal point of the summit, President Buhari expressed special appreciation to the government of Japan for its contribution of 800 million Dollars to the fight against malaria, tuberculosis among others.
The contribution is part of the 1.3 billion Dollars made available to the Nigerian Health Sector by the Global Fund.
On the gains of TICAD, the President noted that partnerships between Africa and Japan will help create and improve investment opportunities in industries, agriculture, information technology, science and technology among others for the good of the continent and investors from Japan.
”In view of the challenges Africa is facing, the imperative for a viable partnership like the Tokyo International Conference on African Development cannot be over emphasized.
”Today, many countries in Africa including the oil producing ones are wisely seeking to diversify their economies away from mono-cropping.
”In Nigeria, our Administration has already taken concrete steps to diversify the economy by making agriculture not just a development programme but a thriving business.
”Investing in the economies of this continent especially through Public-Private-Partnership can contribute to building capacity for our economies,” he said.
The 2-day summit with the theme ‘‘Advancing Africa’s Sustainable Development Agenda-TICAD Partnership for Prosperity”, is being held outside of Japan for the first time since its inception in 1993.
Among other things, TICAD aims to solve Africa’s development problems through quality technology in the health, industry, agriculture and environment sectors.
A draft declaration to be adopted at end of the summit will seek to combat the growing threats of terrorism, conflicts and violent radicalism through the promotion of education and job creation.”