Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the Federal Government is ready to continue negotiation with Boko Haram for the release of the remaining Government Secondary School, Chibok, girls as long as international organizations are involved.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said the president gave the condition during a meeting with Mr. Peter Maurer, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President, at the State House, Abuja, on Monday.
Buhari commended the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the release of the 21 abducted Chibok schoolgirls, urging it to sustain its humanitarian interest in Nigeria.
He said his administration was prepared to continue talks with the Boko Haram insurgent group “as long as they agree to involve international agencies like ICRC.
“We’ve seen the result of recent talks; 21 of the Chibok girls are back,” the president said, referring to the role played by ICRC in providing immediate humanitarian assistance to the girls, who had spent over 900 days in the hands of their abductors.
Buhari said Nigeria’s biggest problem was perhaps the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs), noting that there were over 2 million of them, “made up of over 60 per cent women and children. About 60 per cent of the children don’t know their parents, or where they come from. It is weighing heavily on government.”
On rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure, Buhari said it was a priority of government, noting that the G7 had equally indicated support, which Nigeria heartily welcomed.
“We appreciate all your efforts. I am pleased you recognized that our military is cooperating with civil authorities, and respecting humanitarian issues. It is a difficult time for Nigeria. About 27 of our 36 states couldn’t pay salaries when we came last year, and we are still struggling with that. But we will get out of it,” the president said.
Maurer, the ICRC president, said their operation in the Lake Chad region was the second largest in the world, after Syria, adding that there were nutritional, health, water and sanitation issues in the North-east, in addition to rebuilding of infrastructure.