The Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), Lawal Daura, has given rare details of how the Nigerian government negotiated with Boko Haram for the release of abducted oil explorers and policewomen.
The police officers were abducted in June 20, 2017 while travelling from Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno State, to Askira Uba local government area to attend a burial.
The lecturers were part of a team of geophysicists searching for oil in the Lake Chad Basin, on behalf of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The abductees were released on February 10. They were received by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday.
Addressing the president and the abductees, the SSS boss, Mr. Daura, identified Jummai Ibrahim as the victim who was serving as a youth corps member at the time of her abduction.
He said she could have passed out at the end of the last batch in 2017.
Other female abductees are Esther Kwasina, Amina Gomdiya, Gloria Bulus, Paulina Amos and Tani Audu, a final year student at the University of Maiduguri.
He later gave details of how the negotiation happened. It is however unclear what terms were finally agreed upon for the kidnapped officials to be released.
“Mr. President, the search and negotiations for the rescue of the victims commenced in earnest following your directives to the effect that all abducted persons must be found and rescued alive,” Mr. Daura said.
“However, we chose the path of negotiation because it was considered as the safest because any forceful attempt to rescue the victims could endanger their lives.
“These negotiations took several months and the Department of State Services with support of the external elements of the group in diaspora and support from friendly countries and liaising with International Committee of the Red Cross, made the rescue possible,” he said.
Mr. Daura also said the process of the rescue slowed due to the problem of dealing with two different groups based in different locations at the same time.
“In addition, the negotiations took place mostly outside the country, though subsequently finalised in the theatre of operations.
“The negotiations were mainly centered on an attempt at conflict mitigation which include the fate of arrested members of the insurgent groups especially, accepting to free by government those found not to be culpable in any criminal action.
“Also, possible cessation of hostilities especially the attacks with IEDs on innocent civilians, worship centres, schools and other public places in return for temporary stoppage of air strikes by helicopter gunships.
“Lastly, the negotiation was also centered on the possibility of granting amnesty to those willing to surrender and ready to lay down their arms by the federal government,” he said.
A geophysics lecturer, Solomon Yusuf, spoke at the event on behalf of the released abductees.
“While we were in captivity and we said with 180 million or more Nigerians, will Nigeria ever come to rescue us? We lost hope! Sir, you surprised us. After seven months for us in the university and eight months for the 10 ladies, Nigeria rescued us. This shows that the life of every Nigerian is important and is worth rescuing.
“Sir, we are grateful. You gave us hope when there was no hope And we are excited, we thank you Sir, Mr. Yusuf said.
“We also want to appreciate the DSS, the Nigerian armed forces, and the entire team that worked together to make sure we regained our freedom. We appreciate the labour of love they have shown to us.
“We also want to appreciate Nigerians for praying. We were informed that the entire nation was praying for us and we were excited and we said, ‘Oh God what is this?’ This is love. Sir, we are grateful.
“Sir, from the university, it is a golden opportunity for us to see you and to share our fears and concern because we were abducted while working for the nation. And right now going back home to us is still a nightmare because of our experiences.
“Sir we have this golden plea with all due respect. Sir, if there is an opportunity for us to be relocated and maybe given another job, Sir, this is our golden request. This is the only opportunity we have to share with you. But we appreciate everything done, the sacrifice you have given to us. Thank you Sir.”