Contrary to speculations that talks with Boko Haram over the remaining 197 abducted Chibok girls have broken down, the Federal Government has insisted that negotiation for their release is ongoing.
Three weeks ago, 21 of the girls were released, a development that rekindled the hope that others will get freedom.
One of the girls was found at the weekend with a baby. Troops of the 121 Battalion, Nigerian Army deployed at Pulka, Gwoza Local Government Area, Borno State, found Maryam Ali Maiyanga and her 10- month-old baby while screening escapees from Sambisa Forest.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated that there was no truth in the speculation making the rounds in Abuja.
The minister told the newsmen that the talks were still on, though he did not give details because of the security nature of the negotiation.
An earlier effort in the last few days to get information on the negotiations did not yield any positive result as security sources would not discuss the matter. Worse, there was no word from official security agencies as the Department of State Services (DSS) remains without a spokesman.
“It is not true (that the talks have broken down). Talks are still very much on course,” was all Mohammed volunteered.
Another source disclosed that as recently as last week Monday, when questions were put to the security services, they volunteered that negotiations were still on. “We make it our business to find out the level of negotiations going on, and of course with the way we asked, it was not possible for them to deceive us on the matter,” the source added.
It was learnt that the alleged freeze in discussions followed the failure of both parties to agree on the issue of money, though it could not be confirmed what money had to do with the negotiations, since the government has continued to maintain that it did not pay for the release of the first 21 girls.
The source said the insurgents’ negotiators appear to be asking for more money and release of some of their men in the government custody. “They are not happy with the initial claim that the girls were released for free,” a source said.
Following a rash of bombings and attacks, including one in which insurgents allegedly blew themselves up last Tuesday, fears are being expressed in certain quarters over the heightening of terror acts which suggests the insurgents have a free base of operation in any of the four countries of Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroun where they prepare the bombs and the bombers.
Even though the military appears to still have the upper hand, a recent report in the media of the possibility of Boko Haram sneaking in chemical weapons from the Syrian war through any of the contiguous countries in the north east has put the security services on edge, a source said in Abuja yesterday.
The source described the use of sophisticated suicide belt found on a bomber gunned down by an army marksman as worrisome. He, however, said the government was putting in place measures to counter the emerging sophistication on the part of the insurgents.
Meanwhile, 85 people held hostage by the Boko Haram terrorists have been rescued by troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole, while clearing some of the insurgents’ strongholds, killing 42 members of the sect during the various operations.
A joint operation by the 27 Task Force Brigade, codenamed Karya Gwuiwa which was launched and had carried out clearance operations in some villages, also captured a suspected Boko Haram member and a suspected female sex slave.
A statement by the Acting Director of Army Public Relations Colonel
Sani Usman said the troops led by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, Nigeria Army Brigadier-General Victor Ezougwu, “conducted a decisive clearance operation on remnants of Boko Haram strategic hub town of Chukungudu on the southern fringes of the Lake Chad region in the northern part of Borno State between Friday 4th and Saturday 5th November 2016.”
According to the statement, the strategic planning by the troops led by 3 Battalion of 22 Brigade, “successfully cleared Geram, Bulankassa and Chukungudu believed to be the Boko Haram terrorists stronghold in that area. The gallant troops rescued 85 people, comprising mostly women and children held hostage by the insurgents.”
At Geram, the troops made a startling discovery of an Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) making factory, where they found already primed suicide bombers’ vests. At Chukungudu village, they discovered a well-equipped motor vehicles and motorcycles repair workshop and spare parts well housed.
While one soldier died, the troops “neutralised 5 (five) Boko Haram terrorists fighters in a fierce encounter that made several of the terrorists to run into the Lake Chad waters. The troops recovered four rounds of Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) bombs, 1 Double Barrel Gun, 349 packets containing various rounds of ammunition, 3 magazines, a link belt of machine gun ammunition and 1 AK-47 rifle magazine.”