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Activist confirms Obasanjo held talks on missing girls

29 May 2014, 06:35

Abuja - A rights activist confirmed Wednesday that former president Olusegun Obasanjo hosted talks aimed at brokering the release of more than 200 schoolgirls held hostage by Boko Haram.

The talks at Obasanjo's farm last weekend included the former president, "some family members" of Boko Haram fighters and intermediaries, said Shehu Sani, an activist based in Kaduna.

"This is to confirm that the meeting actually took place and I was part of it," he said in a statement.

"The meeting was solely aimed at exploring the possibility of opening a new channel for dialogue or negotiation with the sect members towards securing the release of the abducted Chibok girls," he said.

Sani, an expert on religious violence in northern Nigeria, has been involved in several past efforts to negotiate with Boko Haram, including a September 2011 bid with Obasanjo.

Although Obasanjo is at odds with President Goodluck Jonathan, he believes any negotiations with Boko Haram "cannot take off without the consent of the federal government," according to Sani.

Sani suggested the meeting was called following the collapse of the government's outreach to the group.

Multiple media have reported that Nigeria sent a journalist with strong Boko Haram contacts, Ahmad Salkida, to negotiate with senior Islamist commanders for the girls' release.

"I wish to also confirm that the report of the intervention of Salkida in negotiating the release of the Chibok girls is credible," Sani said.

Officials have not commented on Salkida's reported mission and Sani did not say how he had become informed about the government's outreach to Boko Haram.



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