Three mothers of schoolgirls abducted from Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014 said they had identified their daughters in a video released by Islamist group Boko Haram, the first possible sighting of the girls since a video in May 2014.
Reuters reported that about 15 girls featured in the video released to local officials on Tuesday, saying they were from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok and pleading with the Nigerian government to cooperate with Boko Haram on their release.
The girls were filmed saying they were being treated well but wanted to go home and be with their families.
Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls from Chibok exactly two years ago, with 57 students managing to escape but 219 still missing despite a global campaign #BringBackOurGirls involving celebrities and the wife of the US President, Michelle Obama.
Reuters reported that mothers Rifkatu Ayuba and Mary Ishaya said they recognised their daughters, Saratu and Hauwa, in the video, while a third mother, Yana Galang, identified five of the missing girls. Local officials said more identifications were needed.
“The girls were looking very, very well,” Galang said in a telephone interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation after viewing the video at a screening organised by local officials in Maiduguri.
The three mothers were invited to the viewing centre by the Chairman of Chibok Local Government Area, Bana Lawan, who confirmed that he had paid their travel costs to Maiduguri.
“They were definitely our daughters … all we want is for the government to bring back our girls,” said Galang, adding all the girls were wearing hijab in the video.
No member of Boko Haram was visible in the video and local officials were not immediately available to give details on how they received the video.
“We only heard a man’s voice and saw his finger pointing at the girls one after the other,” Reuters quoted Galang as saying.
She said the girls in the video spoke in Hausa language and Kibaku, the local Chibok language.
Galang said one mother, Ayuba, was relieved to see her daughter as she had heard a rumour shortly after the kidnapping that her daughter had been killed by Boko Haram.
“She was very happy to see her in the video … her daughter is alive,” Galang said.
Shehu Sani urges negotiation with sect
Reacting to the new development that the mothers identified their daughters in the new video, the senator representing Kaduna Central and former negotiator on the release of 219 Chibok girls abducted by the Boko Haram, Sheu Sani, said the Islamic group had no option but to agree to the negotiation on the release of the schoolgirls.
Sani said the terrorists had lost the ground to the military since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office and advised the insurgents to embrace dialogue.
The senator, who spoke in an interview with CNN on Wednesday, said impostors among some of the negotiators had been a challenge inhibiting a breakthrough and suggested that the source that facilitated the release of the video should be engaged by the government in the negotiation with the sect.
He said, “Negotiation will make it possible for these girls to be brought back home alive. What has always been the problem in the last few years has been the very fact there are scam negotiators, who most times make claims and don’t deliver. And I think this is what we must be very careful of at this time. The very fact that we can get such a credible video from some sources and those sources are elements that need to be utilised to be able to achieve the goal of getting these girls out.
“When President Muhammadu Buhari took over, a section of our country was taken over by the insurgence group. They hosted their flags and even unleashed their version of theocratic Islamic group. But now, with funding for the military and support by the government, the morale is high, the military had been able to push them back and most of the cities in the North-East are safe. Buhari has not been able to achieve 100 per cent success but he has made serious progress. I believe he can still achieve more. With the very fact that now, they know clearly they cannot win militarily and the only option is to go for other ways. There is no other way other than for them to agree to negotiate on the release of these girls.”
The senator noted that countries like United States and Israel had explored negotiation in similar circumstances and urged the Federal Government to follow suit.
He said, “Negotiations have taken place in a number of countries. There were negotiations between the Israelis government and Hamas, which led to the release of some Israelis soldiers; the same thing with Taliban and America brokered by Qatar. We believe that Nigeria will take this opportunity. I believe with such a credible video, there is light at the end of the tunnel that these girls are alive and that very source that provided this video should be used to get these girls out.”