THE Secretary of the Chief of Defence Staff seven-man negotiating committee, Professor Usman Yusuf has pointed out that for six months they were working behind the scenes to ensure that the Abuja train hostages were released without paying a ransom.
This was even as he said their committee did not encourage the payment of ransom to the terrorists. Speaking with Voice of America Hausa service, Prof Yusuf noted that, “We did not give a dime to the terrorists to release the 23 hostages. He noted that since 29th, March 2022, when the committee started working they told the insurgents that it was wrong to hold pregnant women, children hostage.
“We told them nowhere in Islam encourages that. We were pleading with them to reconsider their stance and release the hostages.”
However, he said, “while, we were discussing, then suddenly, we started hearing the involvement of family members asking for the release of their loved ones and the payment of ransom.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we did not encourage the payment of ransom since day one. And when we realised all have been freed remaining the 23 hostages. We were disturbed. We sensed that it this remaining number might not have the money. They will be eventually left to rust.
“Among the 23 hostages was a two-year-old girl. When she was abducted she was not up to two years. We told them it was not proper to even have grievances with the government.
“We entered the forest to meet with them(Boko Haram). We were meeting with other people all over, the security agencies, traditional rulers, Fulani leaders. army, airforce and navy officials.
“The armed forces really played a significant role. Without the support of the CDS, Gen Irabor, we couldn’t have gotten assess to the forest without their support. “And all these would not have been possible without the full support of the Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, the abductors of the 63 hostages were not Ansaru Islamic fundamentalists but Boko Haram insurgents.
He also said the committee had a robust discussion with the terrorists, saying, “They are not robots, but human beings. They did not come down from the sky.
“I think the discussion should continue in order to ensure that peace return to our country.
“Let’s continue. Is possible from what I saw. You know I followed Sheikh Gumi to eight states where he interfaced with them (terrorists). We have always said we should engage them in dialogue.
“The fundamental thing is our committee has opened a genuine discussion with them, I will like to say it should not be allowed to end.”
On the threat by the Boko Haram Commander to marry 21-year-old Azurfa Lois John, the secretary of the committee remarked that it was not true.
“Even few days before they were released, the Commander reiterated that he had never said that. Even when we talked to her, she said it was not true. The Commander has never approached her.” TRIBUNE ONLINE REPORT
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