Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has told the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, that Nigeria will welcome intermediaries from the global body.
A statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the decision to invite the UN negotiators was to demonstrate Buhari’s commitment to swapping the abducted schoolgirls from Chibok with Boko Haram fighters in custody.
Speaking during a bilateral meeting with the UN scribe at the sidelines of the 71st UN General Assembly in New York, Buhari said the Nigerian government was willing to bend backwards to get the Chibok girls released from captivity.
“The challenge is in getting credible and bona fide leadership of the Boko Haram sect to discuss with,” the president said, adding that “the split in the insurgent group is not helping matters. Government had reached out, ready to negotiate, but it became difficult to identify credible leaders. We will welcome intermediaries such as UN outfits, to step in.”
The president reiterated that the teachings of Boko Haram were far from being Islamic, as neither Islam nor any other religion, advocates hurting the weak and innocent.
“The fact that they kill men, women, children, and other people wantonly, and shout Allahu Akbar (God is Great) shows that they do not know that Allah at all. If they did, they would not shed innocent blood,” Buhari said.
He thanked Ban Ki-Moon for the moral and material support given to Nigeria, which he said had enabled the country surmount many of the challenges facing her.
In his response, the UN Secretary General congratulated Buhari on the anti-corruption war, declaring: “You are highly respected by world leaders, including myself. Your persona has given your country a positive image.”
He said the UN recognised the achievements of the Buhari administration against Boko Haram, urging that human rights be upheld always to prevent a repeat of the scenario being witnessed in Syria.
Ban Ki-Moon also thanked the Nigerian leader for his commitment to issues on climate change, adding that the government should “own the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” for the good of its citizens.