*Group may demand ransom, swap of 16 detained top commanders
*Office of National Security Adviser: Terrorism has overstretched security agencies
*No disquiet in the military over sect leaders in detention – DHQ
*UN Secretary General hails 21 girls’ release
As negotiations for the expected next phase of the release of 83 Chibok girls begins this week, there were indications, last night, 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 still missing, 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 Sunday Vanguard 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 Benawhi, 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.
Meanwhile, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) has said that threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism in parts of Nigeria have not only stretched law enforcement agencies but have also exposed the gap in the nation’s capacity to deal with asymmetric warfare.”
Coordinator of the National Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC) in ONSA, Commodore Yem Musa, who stated this in at a one-day ‘Strategic Communication Analytical Technique Exercise’ in Abuja, said that violent extremist groups were more adapted to using strategic communication than government.
“Through this exercise, we will explore how strategic communication must be a first order capability in the armed forces, law enforcement and intelligence agencies as well as strategic MDAs of government”, Musa said.
Musa explained that the nature of asymmetric warfare and the liberalization of information access through the social media has made it imperative for any state actor serious about its national security to develop efficient and effective use of Strategic Communication.
He noted that the threat from terrorists, insurgent groups and other non-state actors in the country, has called for enhanced capacity and holistic measures to deal with the emerging security challenges.
The CTC boss however, expressed regret that whereas the non-state actors in the country have perfected effective use of the social media, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to deadly effect, the government is still playing a catch-up role.
He said: “The increasing discourse on strategic communication among stakeholders in Nigeria can be linked to the growing body of research on, and practice of counter-terrorism laws, policies and strategy. This, too, is as a result of a new kind of threat hitherto unknown to us.
Musa informed stakeholders at the exercise that “strategic communication is a crucial and relevant tool for counter terrorism and counter insurgency and permeates all governance structures and enhance national security and well-being”.
At the end of the exercise, participants agreed on the need to develop a common lexicon on strategic communication across MDAs in Nigeria.
Remaining captives must be free – UN Secretary General
In a related development, United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, yesterday, commended the efforts of the Federal Government that paid off with the release of the 21 Chibok girls on Thursday.
A statement from the UN Secretariat in New York stated that the Secretary-General also called on the international community to assist Nigeria in securing the release of the remaining girls from Boko Haram’s grip.
The statement read: “The Secretary-General welcomes the reported release of 21 Chibok schoolgirls, following more than two years of captivity.
“He remains deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of the remaining schoolgirls and other victims of abduction by Boko Haram, who are still in captivity.
“The Secretary-General urges the international community to continue supporting the government of Nigeria in its efforts to secure their release, rehabilitation and reintegration.
“He calls for increased efforts to ensure additional humanitarian access in the north-east of Nigeria, and reiterates the continued commitment of the United Nations in this regard.
“The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, in his capacity as High Representative for Nigeria, continues to engage with the Nigerian authorities and international partners on this matter.”