Inter-agency squabbles and a jostling for superiority by the Nigerian army nearly marred the release of 21 Chibok schoolgirls on Thursday, according to tips provided by sources knowledgeable about the complex operation.
One of the sources told SaharaReporters that agents of the Department of State Security (DSS) had concluded the negotiation with Boko Haram fighters to release the first batch of Chibok girl kidnapped by the insurgent Islamist sect in April 2014 and were invited to pick the girls inside Sambisa Forest when the Nigerian Army was contacted to provide cover. Only a few military generals were aware of the entire operation because they coordinated with the DSS to visit Sambisa Forest in the middle of the night. Boko Haram had stipulated that no soldiers could accompany the DSS team that would recover the 21 abducted girls.
However, to be on the safe side, the Nigerian government asked that some well-armed soldiers accompany the DSS officers and some negotiators from the Switzerland government just to be on the safe side.
As planned, and using satellite telephone from the Abuja command center, the DSS officers traveled several miles deep into Sambisa Forest and met with one of the top Boko Haram leaders who brought the 21 girls.
SaharaReporters learned that the negotiations, which called for the government team to drop an undisclosed amount of money, was going well until the Nigerian soldiers in the contingent fired a volley of artillery fire in an apparent effort to claim that they rescued the girls.
The Boko Haram leader involved in the exchange of the abducted girls pleaded with the DSS negotiators to ask the soldiers to stop shooting. Once the soldiers stopped firing, the Boko Haram leader asked the Nigerian contingent to switch on their full headlights. When the lights were turned on, the Boko Haram leader who had come with the girls asked the DSS team to look to their right. The DSS team was stunned to see at least 150 well-armed Boko Haram fighters hidden in the nearby bush ready to strike.
The Boko Haram team then warned the DSS negotiators that they came prepared to die, adding that they suspected that the government team would arrive with the Nigerian army despite the insurgent group’s warning that they did not wish to deal with the army at all.
With nerves calmed, the DSS then dropped the ransom money and took the 21 girls and a baby boy born by one of them and traveled several kilometers to Banki near Cameroon where they put the released girls on a military aircraft.
Our sources disclosed that most military generals did not know about the entire operation. That explained why, after SaharaReporters broke the story of the release of the girls, spokespersons to the Nigerian army at first said it was not true. In a later response, the army told reporters to take whatever came from the Presidency as the update on the condition of Chibok girls.
Another source told our correspondent that the only girl among the rescued girls who is a mother had apparently got pregnant before she was kidnapped in 2014. She later bore a son named Buka Amos.
A Chibok community leader, Zannah Lang confirmed to SaharaReporters that Deborah Ja’afaru had just got married and pregnant when she was kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters in 2014. She delivered her baby boy in custody of Boko Haram until her release on Thursday.
The 21 girls remain under intense medical care at the DSS clinic in Abuja and their parents as expected to meet them on Saturday.
SaharaReporters source said they expect to enter into the next phase of the negotiation with Boko Haram, which would involve the exchange of high profile Boko Haram prisoners.