A faction of Nigeria’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi has criticised the prisoner swap deal that led to the release of another 82 Chibok girls on Saturday.
The Nigerian government said in a statement that it exchanged Boko Haram suspects being held for the girls but did not reveal their identities nor the number of the suspects freed. AFP, however, reported that three senior members of the terror group, all of whom were Chad nationals were released.
Speaking on the issue, the PDP faction described the release of the 82 girls as a welcome development but faulted the option of swapping the 82 Chibok school girls with Boko Haram prisoners over paying a ransom to the terrorist group.
“We recognise the concern of President Buhari to ensure the earliest release of the Chibok girls for domestic and international consideration but we disagree that negotiating with the terrorists is the right approach to achieving the objective,” PDP’s National Working Committee’s spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye said.
He noted that the negotiations are in clear violation and indeed a direct assault on the generally accepted international principle never to negotiate with terrorists and that the suspected terrorists by this release have escaped justice.
President Buhari has not hidden his willingness to “bend over backwards” to secure the release of the girls. On the third anniversary of their kidnap, he said his government had engaged local and international intermediaries in reaching out to members of Boko Haram for the safe release of the Chibok girls.
According to a source, the government did not want a repeat of ransom payment, as the case was during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Apart from that, it took negotiators months to agree on swapping, because the two sides were consulting.
“As a matter of fact, the insurgents wanted ransom and the government had to weigh its implications,” the source said.
“At the end of the day, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari opted for swapping instead of payment of ransom to avoid a mistake of the past.
“The government also felt ransom could further lead to the acquisition of more equipment and ammunition by Boko Haram.
“Above all, the government was guided by the fact that swapping is in line with international best practices. Many countries, including the United States, have undergone some situations like this before.
“So, we saw swapping as cost-effective since Boko Haram has been largely degraded.”
About 276 female students were kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Government Girls Secondary School on April 14, 2014. Fifty-seven of the girls escaped while being taken away while three others were found or rescued by the military.
Twenty-one of them were freed on October 13, 2016, after the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross brokered a deal between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government.
The federal government on Saturday announced the release of additional 82 girls after negotiations with the terrorist group.