Sunday, September 06, 2015

Sen Shehu Sani—»510 DAYS AFTER: Chibok girls are alive

After 510 days of abduction, a ray of hope that the
219 Chibok girls may be alive after all came from
none other than distinguished Senator Shehu Sani
who disclosed to Sunday Vanguard that "they are

Senator Sani, who has been deeply involved in
negotiations with Boko Haram and the Nigerian
government in bids to rescue the girls and end
terrorism in Nigeria, told Sunday Vanguard in an
exclusive interview that he was certain the over 200
girls were alive and urged President Muhammadu
Buhari to make efforts to rescue them before taking
further steps to end insurgency.

The senator, who represents Kaduna Central in the
National Assembly, said his optimism that the girls were alive stemmed from the fact that Boko Haram would have promptly celebrated their killing with an announcement as it does not waste time in telling the world who it has
killed or not.

Sani said: "I have the belief they are alive because if
they were not, certainly, the group in their own
criminality and violence, would have announced that
they had killed them.

"Dont forget they have been very honest in the past in
telling the world who they have killed or not."If they
are not alive, certainly, we would have known but
they are actually alive and I believe it is an issue
which the government needs to thrash out before we
go into the final phase of ending insurgency in the

The lawmaker who has been an activist before
coming to the senate, has been involved in three
previous failed bids to broker peace between the
group and the federal government.

He said that the disagreement between the Federal
Government and Boko Haram on the release of the
latter's commanders from prison, was often
responsible for the collapse of such bids.

"A number of things went wrong with previous
efforts to broker peace between Boko Haram and the
Federal Government", Sani contended.

"First, some of the demands made by Boko Haram
were such that the government was not ready and
willing to oblige.

"The group has always insisted that it is willing to
agree to peace provided its members are released by
the government. But the government had never been
ready to do that. That has been the sticking point
where all previous negotiations had always crashed.

"So, if the government says it is ready for
negotiation, it should also be ready to concede
certain things in the interest of peace", he

But reminded that the government claims that it
could not negotiate with phantom groups or
individuals, Sani said that the announcement of
intent by the government to dialogue with the group
was not the same as taking steps to actualise its

To start with, the Senator suggested the setting up of
a special technical committee by the government
with a waiver to suspend anti-terrorism laws and
make it possible for genuine discussion to be begin
with the group.

He pointed out that since there were laws that made
it a crime for anyone to communicate or be identified
with Boko Haram, it would not be possible for
persons who could assist to come forward for fear
of being arrested and prosecuted for aiding and
abetting terrorism.

Sani said that although the government had in the
past fallen victim to fake groups in the course of
trying to broker a ceasefire with Boko Haram and lost
millions of Naira in the process, he disclosed that he
had made at least three genuine attempts to bring
about peace with the sect and the government.

"There is no doubt that there have been times in
which the Federal Government actually engaged in
discussions with phantom groups and individuals but
there are also times where the negotiations were
very credible.

"In 2011, I was able to facilitate a dialogue between
the group and the Federal Government when I
brought in the former President, Obasanjo, to talk to
the families of the insurgents and another one, which
was with the President of the Supreme Council of
Sharia, Dr. Ahmed Datti, where he represented the
Boko Haram group, which came out openly to
announce him as their representative", he revealed.

To bring the saga to an end, Sani suggested that the
government should involve a Nigerian journalist,
Ahmad Salkida, who now lives in Dubai, in any
discussion with Boko Haram, describing him as being
very credible and crucial in such talks.

He said the journalist, who had been involved in one
of the talks with the government and the sect, had
risked his life to broker peace with the group out of
sheer patriotism for Nigeria and nothing more.
Sani said he would also be ready to work with other
stakeholders to see how to bring about genuine
negotiations with the group and government with a
view to ensuring the release of the girls, if given the
authority by the government to do so.

"I cannot do it alone but it has to be a teamwork
approach with others like clerics, elders and people
who have something to offer in the peace process,"
the senator said.

AbleMoJah® Nigeria.

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