Buhari, who spoke with journalists in Nairobi where he attended the Sixth Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD VI) at the weekend, said the Nigerian government was ready to dialogue with bona fide leaders of the terror group who know the whereabouts of the girls.
“I have made a couple of comments on the Chibok girls and it seems to me that much of it has been politicised. What we said is that the government which I preside over is prepared to talk to bona fide leaders of Boko Haram. If they do not want to talk to us directly, let them pick an internationally recognised non-governmental organisation, convince them that they are holding the girls and that they want Nigeria to release a number of Boko Haram leaders in detention, which they are supposed to know.
“If they do it through the ‘modified leadership’ of Boko Haram and they talk with an internationally recognised NGO, then Nigeria will be prepared to discuss their release,” he said.
Buhari, who spoke on the sidelines of the conference, warned that the Federal Government would not waste resources on “doubtful sources claiming to know the whereabouts of the girls. We want those girls out and safe. The faster we can recover them and hand them over to their parents, the better for us.’’
The president maintained that the terror group, which pledged allegiance to ISIS, has been largely decimated by the gallant Nigerian military with the support of immediate neighbours: Chad, Cameroun, Niger and Benin.
While the president waved an olive branch for the militants in the Niger Delta to sheath their swords and embrace ongoing efforts to dialogue, he said the government would not hesitate to crush them the way it did to the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East.
Buhari’s warning of the militants came against the backdrop of reports of disagreements among leaders and elders from the zone, which the president observed has made discussions impossible for the government.
‘‘We do not believe that they (the militants) have announced ceasefire. We are trying to understand them more. Who are their leaders and which areas do they operate? We also need to understand other relevant issues,’’ he said.
Also speaking at a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, on the sidelines of the conference, Buhari outlined several steps taken by his administration to secure the country and ease doing business in Nigeria, noting that with the defeat of the Boko Haram terrorists by the military, the attention of the administration is now focused on putting an end to the destruction of the country’s economic assets by militants in the Niger Delta.
He said the militants must dialogue with the Federal government. “We are talking to some of their leaders. We will deal with them as we dealt with Boko Haram if they refuse to talk to us.”
But efforts by leaders of the oil-rich region to raise a team to dialogue with the Federal Government is being undermined by the split in the leadership into the camps of Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark and King Alfred Diette-Spiff .
Apparently miffed by an agreement reached at the weekend by the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Clark and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, some militant groups, comprising Reformed Egbesu Fraternities, Egbesu Boys of the Niger Delta, Red Water Lions, Egbesu Mightier Fraternity and the Sea Commandoes yesterday lampooned Clark, insisting he can’t lead the pan-Niger Delta development group.
They claimed that during the meeting with the minister, Clark “attacked” their representatives, including monarchs drawn from all the Niger Delta states, elders and youth leaders, and barred them from airing their views.
According to the protesters, the mandate bestowed on the Niger Delta Dialogue Contact Groups led by Diette-Spiff and Elder T. K. Ogoriba cannot be neglected by Clark.
In a joint statement yesterday by their spokesmen General Alagbakeriowei and Commander Ebi Abakoromor, the militants insisted that the Niger Delta ethnic nationalities who were summoned to Clark’s residence in response to the news of the meeting with the minister in Abuja, misconstrued the widely declared position of the delegation.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has enlisted about 823 ex-militants from Imo State to benefit in another phase of the amnesty programme. The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and Coordinator of amnesty programme, Brig.-Gen. Paul Boro (rtd), disclosed this while speaking at the weekend when he visited the Imo State Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere, at Government House, Owerri.