There are strong indications that the 218 schoolgirls abducted six months ago in Chibok, Borno State, by the violent Boko Haram sect may be released on Monday following a ceasefire agreement between the sect and the Federal Government.
The Federal Government, through the Nigerian military, had on Friday said that it had agreed to a ceasefire with the violent sect and that the Chibok girls would soon be released.
The deal was announced by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh.
The military has struggled to defeat Boko Haram sect which began attack against Nigeria since 2009.
The Islamist militant group sparked global outrage six months ago by abducting more than 200 girls from the town of Chibok.
Badeh said, “A ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the Federal Government and the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal Jihad (Boko Haram).”
The President’s Principal Secretary, Hassan Tukur, told BBC Focus on Africa that an agreement to end the Boko Haram hostilities had been reached after talks with the violent group.
He said the agreement was reached after one month of negotiations in Saudi Arabia. The negotiation was said to have been headed by the Chadian President Idriss Deby.
Tukur said Boko Haram announced a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday and the government had responded.
He said, “The Boko Haram members have assured us that they have the girls and that they will release them. I am cautiously optimistic.”
Tukur and Danladi Ahmadu, who calls himself the Secretary-General of Boko Haram, told VOA’s Hausa-language service that the abducted girls would be released on Monday in Chad.
The girls are alive and “in good condition and unharmed,” Ahmadu said.
President Goodluck Jonathan has faced strong criticism over a deteriorating security situation in Nigeria, with villages in the North-East Borno State inaccessible due to the threat from Boko Haram.
The group had demanded the release of detained extremists in exchange for the schoolgirls.
The Defence Headquarters, however, directed all service chiefs to stop further offensive against the Boko Haram sect.
The Chief of Defence Staff said that he had directed the service chiefs to comply with the ceasefire agreement.
Badeh stated this after a three-day bilateral conference between Nigeria’s military leaders and Cameroon which focused on the coordination of trans-border military operations between the two countries.
The Cameroonian military was led to the conference in Abuja on Wednesday by the country’s Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Maka Rene Claude.
Badeh said, “Without any prejudice to the outcome of our three days interactions, and the conclusions of this forum, I wish to inform this audience that a ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Allul Sunna Li Daawa Waj Jihad.
“I have accordingly directed the service chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development in the field.”
Decisions reached at the conference include joint border patrol, intelligence sharing and how to handle internally displaced persons.
The decision to suspend the counter terrorist operation followed a ceasefire agreement between the Federal Government and representatives of the Boko Haram Sect at Ndjamena, the Chadian Capital.
The Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen Chris Olukolade, said that what the “ceasefire means is that there would be no fire.”