The Federal Government has been locked in another round of lengthy negotiation with members of the Boko Haram sect for the release of the next batch of Chibok school girls kidnapped in Borno over two years ago.
As negotiations for the expected next phase of the release of 83 Chibok girls begins this week, there were indications that the leadership of the Boko Haram sect might table two major conditions to be met by the Federal Government to seal the deal.
A source close to the negotiations confided in Sunday Vanguard that unlike the 21 girls, who were freed by the sect, last Thursday, to test government’s level of commitment and sincerity, the release of the remaining girls may be based strictly on ransom payment and freedom for no fewer than 16 of Boko Haram commanders by the government.
The government, it was learnt, was eager to get the remaining 83 girls, reportedly held by a top leader of the sect in an undisclosed location in the North East. Of the 219 girls, a source said that only 104 were left in the captivity of the sect while the rest had long been married off by top commanders and converted to Islam.
“The truth is that those Chibok girls are now Boko Haram members, having married the sect members and become radicalised,” the source said.
“The remaining 83 girls are with a top leader of Boko Haram and those are the only ones we are going to work for their release in the next phase of our negotiations which starts immediately.
“The others had since become Boko Haram members, having been married off and radicalised into Boko Haram as soon as they were captured over two years ago”.
But a correspondent learnt that the representatives of the sect, who are meeting with a Federal Government team, might insist on payment upfront of huge cash by government before freeing the captives.
“I think the guys are settled on the idea that the cash must come ahead of the release since they had proved to government that they are reliable by releasing the 21 girls, last week, without many conditions attached”, the source stated.
Asked if the sect leaders were unsure of government’s sincerity to keep its own side of the bargain, the source said that the representatives of Boko Haram had also shown that they have confidence in government.
It was learnt that the lingering challenge in getting back all the girls arose from the fact that while some of them are with a faction loyal to Abu Musab al-Barnawi , the rest are being kept by the group loyal to Abubakar Shekau.
But one of the negotiators believed the remaining 83 girls would be freed if a meaningful deal is struck between the sect and the Federal Government.