Activist confirms Obasanjo held talks on missing girls

2014-05-29 11:42
A woman attends a mass-demonstration calling on the government to increase efforts to rescue hundreds of missing kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria. (Sunday Alamba, AP)

A woman attends a mass-demonstration calling on the government to increase efforts to rescue hundreds of missing kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria. (Sunday Alamba, AP)

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Abuja - A Nigerian rights activist confirmed on Wednesday that ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo hosted talks aimed at brokering the release of more than 200 schoolgirls held hostage by Boko Haram.

The talks at Obasanjo's farm last weekend included the former president, "some family members" of Boko Haram fighters and intermediaries, said Shehu Sani, an activist based in the northern city of Kaduna.

"This is to confirm that the meeting actually took place and I was part of it," he said in a statement.

"The meeting was solely aimed at exploring the possibility of opening a new channel for dialogue or negotiation with the sect members towards securing the release of the abducted Chibok girls," he said.

The mass abduction on 14 April from a secondary school in Chibok in northeastern Borno state has been met with global outrage and drawn unprecedented attention to Boko Haram's five-year extremist uprising.

Sani, an expert on religious violence in northern Nigeria, has been involved in several past efforts to negotiate with Boko Haram, including a September 2011 bid with Obasanjo.

Senior Islamist commanders

Although Obasanjo is at odds with President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he once supported, the ex-president believes any negotiations with Boko Haram "cannot take off without the consent of the federal government", according to Sani.

Sani suggested the meeting was called following the collapse of the government's outreach to the group.

Multiple media have reported that Nigeria sent a journalist with strong Boko Haram contacts, Ahmad Salkida, to negotiate with senior Islamist commanders for the girls' release.

"I wish to also confirm that the report of the intervention of Mr Salkida in negotiating the release of the Chibok girls is credible," Sani said.

Officials have not commented on Salkida's reported mission and Sani did not say how he had become informed about the government's outreach to Boko Haram.
Read more on:    boko haram  |  goodluck jonathan  |  olusegun obasanjo  |  nigeria  |  nigeria kidnappings  |  abductions  |  west africa

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