The Chief of Defence Staff, Lt-General Abayomi Olonishakin, says only the political authorities can decide on the demand by Boko Haram militants to exchange the abducted Chibok girls with the sect’s detained members.
Olonishakin was addressing State House correspondents yesterday after a workshop organised for chief executives of government agencies held at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the military would sustain its counter-insurgency operations.
In a video released by the sect weekend, a man clad in military uniform hanging an AK47 rifle had said some of the girls were still alive but would only be exchanged with Boko Haram members in the custody of Nigerian authorities.
“That (swapping of Chibok girls with detained sect members) is a political decision to be taken. The military decision is that we are going ahead with our operations. The operation is being conducted appropriately,” he said.
Olonishakin, who said the meeting was on how to handle all forms of crises including terrorism or flood, added the military was analysing the video and would make appropriate comments at the right time.
Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, also spoke on the sect’s swap request, saying: “Until you are able to ascertain the authenticity of those you are talking to, you don’t go into details.”
The minister restated that the government was in touch with the leadership of the sect but was being careful and cautious to ensure that they were talking to the right people especially with the reports of a split in the leadership.
“But what is important is the safety and security of these girls. The thrust of my statement was to ensure the nation that we’re on top of the situation. We’re not even just reacting to the video, we’ve gone far beyond the video in talking to the group already,” he said.
On the plan by the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners to match to the State House again, Mohammed said: “We appreciate their commitment to the return of these girls, but there are a few things we need to do behind the scene. What we’re saying is that the government is committed to doing everything to rescue these girls.
We’re engaging them. By saying we’re talking to them, I’m talking from a point of knowledge. It does not matter what other people say. I know that the government is in touch with the group.”
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, said the workshop was arranged for chief executives to understand how to respond to emergency issues and be in the position to advise the president to take the right decisions under emergency cases whether on terrorism, flood or any other thing.