Ahmad Salkida, the Dubai-based Nigerian journalist, said today that only 15 out of the remaining 113 Chibok schoolgirls, believed to be with their Boko Haram abductors are alive. In series of tweets today, in which he provided a backgrounder to the abduction, exactly four years ago.
Salkida said the surviving 15 have been married off, indoctrinated and may no longer be interested in returning home. He advises government in negotiating for the release of the 15 girls to demand ‘proof of life’.
His tweets dealt with the botched attempts during the Jonathan era when the Boko Haram terrorists were willing to release the girls on swap deals and later developments.
Here is his story as picked from his Twitter handle @contactsalkida:
“Four years ago, a middle ranking Boko Haram commander led dozens of fighters in search of food and other supplies in the remote town of Chibok. Like an afterthought, they saw a chance to abduct school girls in Girls Secondary School Chibok. The girls at the time were preparing for their exams.
“The dozens of Boko Haram fighters faced no opposition during the abduction, as they struggled to convey their captives to the forest of Alagarno, the insurgent’s first war capital, which they named Timbuktu. It was in Timbuktu that they organised most of the horror we experience today.
“Some of the girls were lucky to have escaped on their way to Timbuktu that night, because there were fewer fighters to hold more than 200 girls. At the beginning, the group didn’t know what to do with the girls, at least, not in the first one month of their captivity.
“However, what many people did not know was that two weeks into the abduction, the Jonathan administration was already in touch with me for the peaceful release of the girls. By the way, I was in self-exile after pressure from the same government.
“I took an excuse where I was doing a menial job in the UAE (but still reporting the insurgency), to see the president, which was facilitated by Aliyu Gebi and Labaran Maku. By the 3rd of May, I was already on my way from Abuja to Madagali, Marwa and finally to a Boko Haram camp.
“I got a proof of life for the president and another for the media in case I didn’t get back. The demands of Boko Haram then were simple. They wanted detained members taken to Damaturu and they will move the girls to Buni-Yardi for swap somewhere in between. There was no word on ransom
“I was provided with full military escorts from Abuja to Damaturu. Government was supposed to make sure that 70 detainees were ready on my arrival in Damaturu to meet 30 there. The rest of the negotiating team was in Abuja making sure the prisoners were on a plane before my arrival.
“On arrival in Damaturu, the military commander there was not briefed about my work. He was merely told to expect a VIP. At that time, the girls have been moved by Boko Haram, but there were no prisoners for exchange and I got a call from the former Chief of Defence Staff to abort the operation.
“The president later said before me that he did not call off the swap. There was a credible window, but zero Will to rescue the girls. Boko were angry. I returned to the UAE to continue my hustle, but received invitations not only by the former administration, but the current government
“Four out of five processes that I was involved in, we came close to a swap deal, but Government in most instances did not provide the platform I presented with the required expertise. And whenever Government dragged its feet, Shekau will shift the goal post.
“I continued my reporting on the crisis, often critical of government and Boko Haram, with both sides raising concerns. For me, I am a reporter before anything else, many officials consider me as somebody who was too independent minded for a process that needs to be shrouded in secrecy.
“Government began to look for alternatives to conclude what I’ve started and my former couriers stepped in as the primary ‘negotiators.’ It was a break for me because it is no longer negotiations, but mere transaction. Another reason was my insistence that the process must be domesticated
“I was a prickle in the flesh of our leaders with my counter claims of official narratives. A day after I exclusively released a video of the girls, something I’ve done in the past, I was declared wanted by same military that provided me with escorts, military aircraft for assignments
“I was amazed to learn later that the terms that saw the release of some of the girls was unfavourable than what I presented, but as my friend will say, even if we come up with a cure for cancer, the war economy and elites would rather die than accept a cure from a talaka.
“Today, my painstaking investigations on the #Chibokschoolgirls revealed that just a handful of the 113 #ChibokGirls are alive. Many of the girls have died as a result of cross fires and bombardments of the security forces that no doubt were intent on rescuing them.
“I regret to state here that only 15 out of the 113 #Chibokgirls are alive today, based on my investigations in the last three months and we have already seen some of them in a video, which I exclusively obtained and was published on SR website.
“What is the status of the remaining 15 girls as far as negotiations are concerned? My investigations also revealed that, they are no longer under the control of #AbubakarShekau. According to sources, they are now ‘married’ and only their ‘husbands’ can decide their fates.
“If they are divorced or the men are killed that is when Shekau’s decision takes precedence, and in this instance, since the girls have been indoctrinated, their leader has no right to negotiate for their release, no matter the ransom offered, reliable multiple sources said.
“It will be unbearable to share the names of the 15 that are alive here, this is the responsibility of Government. When I was involved, I regularly provided proof of life. Government must demand that to prove me wrong or stop negotiating for many of the girls that don’t exists.
“The secrecy around the condition of the #ChibokGirls and most recent #DapchiGirls debacle by those involved is the reason people like me are out of the picture. The fact remains that under the present circumstances there is NO room for peace settlement.
“The way out for these girls, is a military rescue or negotiate wt individual captors to release their ‘wives’ in return for some kind of deal, but this will mean death to these fighters bcz the terror group now sees the girls as part of their own and must be protected.
“How comes there is little or no information about the girls and both the parents and campaigners are in the dark? Because, Govt resist independent reporting of the crisis, most of the reports are choreographed & Nigerians are also not ready to hear the truth or stand by it.
“Reporting the #LakeChadCrisis is not just a job for me, Borno is my home, this crisis has affected me too. I’ve invested 13yrs of my 18yrs journalism career to follow this story in a way no reporter or researcher has done, hence my knowledge of this crisis can’t be dismissed.
“I’v risked my life and that of my family in the past and even now, not only to tell the story, but to play the role of a mediator and fact finder. But as soon as the FG found alternatives, my sacrifices got an official ridicule and I am being hounded.
“I hold no other intention of doing this than the need to stir a debate to demand more insights and bring closure to the parents. The nation must not fail you from rescuing your daughters and also fail to tell you the truth.
“My heartfelt condolences to the parents of the near 100 that have perished or have not returned home and apparently not with their captors. But you must always remember that your daughters were stronger than the rest of us that couldn’t do more to avert this catastrophe.”