Nigeria security spokesman says no deal reached on schoolgirls’ release

Supporters of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign march for the release of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, in Abuja on Oct 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Supporters of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign march for the release of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, in Abuja on Oct 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

ABUJA (AFP) - Nigeria’s chief security spokesman told AFP on Friday that there was no deal in place with Boko Haram for the release of more than 200 hostage schoolgirls after the presidency said an accord had been reached.

Asked if a deal for the release of the girls had been finalised, the head of the National Information Centre, Mike Omeri, said: “No. That part has not been agreed but we are inching closer and closer.”

President Goodluck Jonathan’s Principal Secretary Hassan Tukur said earlier that a deal was done with Boko Haram for the release of the 219 teenagers who were snatched from the northeast town of Chibok on April 14.

“They (Boko Haram) have agreed to release the Chibok girls,” Tukur said.

The different branches of Nigeria’s government have frequently made contradictory statements on major national events in the past, with competing agendas often leading to confusing and contradictory positions.

The presidency, Omeri and the military all said on Friday that Boko Haram and the government had reached a ceasefire deal.

“Already, the terrorists have announced a ceasefire in furtherance of their desire for peace,” Omeri said in a separate statement.

“In this regard, the government of Nigeria has, in similar vein, declared a ceasefire.”

Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh ordered all security chiefs to comply with an order ending hostilities in the five-year conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives and left tens of thousands of others homeless.

But Badeh, like Omeri, did not confirm any deal on the release of the Chibok schoolgirls, whose plight galvanised a worldwide social media campaign that forced Nigeria into action to secure their release.

Omeri said only that Boko Haram “indicated their desire for and willingness to discuss and resolve all associated issues”.

“They also assured that the school girls and all other people in their captivity are all alive and well,” he added.

The presidency’s claim about the schoolgirls is likely to be interpreted through the context of politics, with Jonathan expected to seek re-election next year and in need of good news about the insurgency and the hostages.

Multiple analysts cast doubt on the credibility of the ceasefire, with scepticism about the identity of the purported Boko Haram envoy who allegedly represented the Islamists at recent talks in neighbouring Chad.

Various sources with intimate knowledge of the insurgent group said the envoy, Danladi Ahmadu, had no connection to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.