The offer by the leader of the Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram to release more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by his fighters last month in exchange for member of his sect in prison has sparked mixed reactions from eminent Nigerians.
Even as Shehu Sani, a human rights activist, who is currently aspiring to represent Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 has urged the federal Government to accept the offer.
Reacting to this development, Professor of Law and human rights activist, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) agreed with Sani, asking if the government has a choice.
“My opinion is, do we have a choice, because the primary thing is the safety and return of those girls? They have to be reunited with their families, otherwise the whole country will be in trauma and the parents may just as well be dead once the girls are dead.
“So, my question is this: do we have a choice if Boko Haram says the only way to release them is to free their detained members? I think the government have to accept the offer.
“I don’t think government has a choice because my fear is that even if you know where they are, if you launch an attack, how many loses are they going to suffer? The government is in a very bad position in this regard. They have no choice”, Sagay noted.
Reminding him that releasing them could amount to approving terror in the country, Sagay said “No. It doesn’t mean approving terror. It means determining to save the lives. But I’m sure as soon as the girls arrive home and those suspects are released, there will be very violent and strong attacks by the Boko Haram people.
“So, that will be not be the end of their struggle. That will be postponing the evil day that would have come today. But the lives of those girls are paramount”, he said.
But Mr Yinka Odumakin, the Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere and former spokesman of presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change and leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) in his reaction queried that “When you allow Boko Haram who have abducted innocent girls to be swapped with people who have been accused of heinous offences, what justification do you have? The Boko Haram members arrested have been accused of crimes, of murder and all kinds of things. What offence did the innocent girls committed to now use them to exchange for them? You must not start what you cannot finish.
“Once you do that they will capture other people to make other spurious demands. Therefore, I think what Nigeria needs to do at this time is to hunt down the criminals.
“How many panels have been set up to negotiate with Boko Haram? After this panels they because more heinous in their attacks”, Odumakin said.
Former Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and the convener of the Voters Assembly (VOTAS), Moshood Erubami, who agreed that the suspects be swapped, advised that the Nigerian Security agents should ensure they extract all necessary information from the Boko Haram suspects before they are released. “They must extract information on their mission, their sponsors and all necessary information before releasing them to the society”, Erubami said.