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Chibok Girls: Split In Boko Haram Threatens Swap Deal

There were strong indications on Monday that the Federal Government was in a dilemma over the faction of the Boko Haram sect, it should hold talks with. The PUNCH gathered that the Federal Government had in the past four months been holding talks with members of the sect with a view to securing the release of the Chibok girls.
It was, however, learnt that the matter came to a head two weeks ago with the factionalisation of the sect. A top government official, who confided in The PUNCH, said that contrary to the belief of many people, the release of the girls was uppermost in the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He admitted that there had been offers by some members of the sect to release the girls, but the government was being careful. The source stated, “We do not want to make the mistake the past administration made when its negotiation with the sect did not lead to the release of the girls. We are still in a dilemma on which of the two factions should we negotiate with. We must confirm that the offers are genuine.”
The sect had on August 3 split with the  ISIS naming  Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the new leader of Boko Haram.
In an interview with al-Barnawi in its Al-Naba online weekly magazine, ISIS introduced him as Boko Haram new leader.
But a few days later, following the new appointment, the erstwhile leader, Abubakar Shekau, released an audio message in Arabic and Hausa languages accusing al-Barnawi of trying to stage a coup against him.
Shekau dismissed el-Barnawi “as an infidel who condones living in an un-Islamic society without waging jihad.” He also claimed to have been tricked by some of his followers.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,  in an interview with State House correspondents after a workshop organised for top security chiefs on how to respond to emergency situations such as terrorism and flood inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Monday, said the government must first ascertain the authenticity of those it was talking with.
He said, “The government’s position is clear that we are in touch with them. We are just being careful and cautious to ensure that we are talking to the right people especially with the news that there is a split in the leadership. But what is important is the safety and security of these girls.
“The thrust of my statement (on Sunday) was to assure the nation that we are on top of the situation. We are not even just reacting to the video, we have gone far beyond the video in talking to the group already. Until you are able to ascertain the authenticity of those you are talking to, you don’t go into details,” he said.
The minister said the position of government was that there could not be an end to the issue of terrorism until the abducted girls were rescued.
On the reported plan by the BringBackOurGirls coalition to again match on the Presidential Villa, Mohammed said, “We appreciate their commitment to the return of these girls but there are few things we need to do behind the scene. What we are saying is that the government is committed to doing everything to rescue these girls.
“We are engaging them. By saying we are talking to them, I am talking from a point of knowledge. It does not matter what other people say. I know that the government is in touch with the group…
“Until the release of this video, the effort is not attracting any attention. But every day, the Office of the NSA and others concerned are working on it.
“For us, it is not just because of the release of the video but because of our belief that there will be no final closure to Boko Haram until we are able to resolve the issue of these girls.”
On his part, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Abayomi Olonishakin, also in an interview with journalists at the event, said the demand that the Federal Government swap detained Boko Haram members for the Chibok was a political decision that would not stop ongoing military operations.

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