What is all the excitement surrounding the alleged ransom for the Chibok girls really about?

With four days left to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the abducted Chibok girls, a controversy has emerged surrounding the terror group responsible for the tragedy – Boko Haram, and the Nigerian government.  According to some reports, last week Boko Haram expressed a readiness to release the girls to the Nigerian government in exchange for a N50 million ransom, and the offer launched a debate within the government over whether or not the group should be indulged in their request.

Other reports are in dissonance as regards the exact amount of money the terror group is purportedly demanding, with some putting it at N56 million and others citing a N10 billion prize. Also, an unnamed source claims that Boko Haram made the offer through its secret contacts with the government.

However, the Nigerian government, through the Ministry for Information and Culture, has denied the credibility of the aforementioned development, stating that the current dubious situation is not the first of its kind and thus the government will not be making an official comment on the matter anytime soon. Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed further stated that as always, the government will strive to verify the credibility of the source as it continues to seek for ways to secure the release of the Chibok girls.

While this latest debate over a ransom for the Chibok girls may be lacking in the area of validity, the Nigerian government has in fact been placed in front of a similar situation of possible negotiation with Boko Haram in 2014 and 2015 respectively, albeit to no avail. In September of 2014, Boko Haram released a video in which its leader Abubakar Shekau swore that the girls will never be seen again if the government refused to trade them for Boko Haram members in its custody. In July of the following year, negotiations were reopened.

Nonetheless, a deal could not be reached both times because Boko Haram apparently had plans to release only a handful of the girls in exchange for their “brothers” which the government could not agree to, and then the Nigerian government happened to have just a few of the Boko Haram members fingered for release in their custody.

This raises the question as to whether the Nigerian government should attempt a different form of negotiation with the Boko Haram members (since the present administration is open to the idea), or abandon the tactic altogether, given the fact that negotiating with terrorists is usually a tricky affair. This is in addition to the length of time that has passed since the girls were taken, coupled with the wide variety of theories being brought forward concerning the physical and psychological state they would most likely be found in.

Also, there is the issue of indirectly – or in fact directly – financing the terror group by paying a ransom to get the girls back, especially if the group is as flustered and desperate as is depicted in the news.

Most of the recent news about Boko Haram in Nigeria involves the Nigerian Army’s counting its victories over the group. But as of today, the Nigerian government is yet to ascertain the location of the girls who went missing almost two years ago, and the dangerous Boko Haram sect remains a threat to Nigerians within the North-Eastern part of the country and outside of it.

Another likely question is if all of the speculation is just media frenzy, which analysts argue led the girls to become a major asset to Boko Haram in the first place, and yet another opportunity taken by the Nigerian government to defend itself in preparation for the potential bashing it is set to receive over the missing Chibok girls come April 15, 2016.

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