The Presidency has ruled out negotiating with the Boko Haram sect for the release of the schoolgirls abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
While claiming responsibility for the April 14 abduction in a video obtained by AFP, the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, had threatened to sell-off the over 200 girls, who he called ‘slaves’.
His statement was deconstructed as a subtle way of asking for ransom from the government for the release of the girls.
But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, weekend, said the government would not pay ransom or engage in any form of sale of human beings.
Abati stressed that no amount of provocation would push the government to get involved in any act that was related to slavery.
Speaking to PUNCH, Abati said, “The Federal Government is not going to engage in any form of selling human beings. The sale of any human being is an assault on the dignity of that human being.
“Slavery is one of the major crimes against humanity in the UN Conventions. There will be no amount of provocation that will push the Federal Government of Nigeria to engage in anything that is remotely associated to the promotion of slavery.
“The position of the Federal Government is that even if Boko Haram goes ahead with its threat to sell human beings, whoever buys such human beings will be held culpable for promoting slavery.
“What we are dealing with and which must be stressed is that when there is a crime against humanity, the whole world must come together to condemn that crime.
“The question of turning human beings into merchandise and that being supported by government should be ruled out. I don’t think that will happen.
“But government of course will do everything within its capacity to ensure that the girls are brought back to safety. But turning them into items of merchandise is not part of the strategy at this time”.
On government’s response to the demand by some North-East leaders that President Goodluck Jonathan should not extend the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, the Abati said the president would make his position known on the matter this week.
He noted that the decision would, however, not be premised on what the elders wanted but on the interest of the people of the affected states and Nigeria in general.
“President Jonathan has already addressed this (the issue of state of emergency) in his last media chat. I think that in the coming week, it will be exactly six months since the last state of emergency was declared.
“By next week, we are likely to see the President taking a close look at the issue and taking a decision on it.
“It is not a question of what the North-East leaders want, it is a question of what is in the best interest of the people of the affected area and in the best interest of Nigeria”, he stated.
Abati also shed more light on the steps taken by President Jonathan to find lasting solutions to the security challenges in the country.
According to him, the president had met twice with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on the need for Israel to support Nigeria in its fight against terrorism.
Abati said, “President Jonathan has very excellent relationship with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. All the times they have met, first when President Jonathan visited Israel and then later when they had a second meeting in Europe, the Prime Minister had always made it clear that at any time, he would be ready to support Nigeria either in the fight against terrorism or in other aspects”.