Dead or alive? This is one question many Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike will be demanding an answer to in the days and even months ahead as they ponder the fate of the 113 Chibok schoolgirls left in Boko Haram captivity.
The fresh controversy over the missing girls was sparked last Saturday, incidentally, the fourth anniversary of their abduction, by a Nigerian journalist with links to the terror sect.
Ahmad Salkida, who had been contacted in the past by government to help in negotiating the release of the girls, said only 15 of them are still alive.
Salkida, in a series of tweets, said his investigations spanning three months showed that many of the girls died from cross fires and bombardments of the security forces that were intended to rescue 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,” he said.
He said even the 15 have been married off.
The Defence Headquarters, which is co-ordinating a military operation to rescue the girls and subdue Boko Haram said last Saturday it did not believe Salkida’s claim.
Brigadier General John Agim, the spokesman for the DHQ said the report was meant to discourage the government from rescuing the girls.
Salkida said abduction was not on the agenda of the Boko Haram insurgents when they set foot on Chibok on that fateful day in 2014.
His words: “Four years ago, a middle ranking BH 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 GSS Chibok. The girls at the time were preparing for their exams.
“The dozens of BH fighters faced no opposition during the abduction, as they struggled to convey their captives to the forest of Alagarno, the insurgents’ 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 BH 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 BH then were simple: they wanted detained members taken to Damaturu and they will move the girls to Buniyardi 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 had been moved by Boko Haram, but there was no prisoners for exchange and I got a call from the former CDS (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. BH 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 would shift the goal post.
“I continued my reporting on the crisis, often critical of government & BH, 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 had 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 had v done in the past, I was declared wanted by same military that provided me with escorts and 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 3 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 exist.
“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 with individual captors to release their ‘wives’ in return for some kind of deal, but this will mean death to these fighters because the terror group now sees the girls as part of their own and must be protected.
“How come there is little or no information about the girls and both the parents and campaigners are in the dark? Because government resists independent reporting of the crisis, most of the reports are choreographed and Nigerians are also not ready to hear the truth or stand by it.
“I’ve 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.”
Reacting, yesterday to Salkida’s claims on the Chibok girls, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the Presidency was not aware that only 15 out of the remaining Chibok girls are still alive.
Shehu said in a statement in Abuja that no such information had ever come from Boko Haram or the international intercessors who are working with the government.
He said: “We wish to confirm that Mr. Salkida is not involved, on behalf of the Nigerian government in the processes leading to the release of the over 100 Chibok girls that have returned to their families, so far , and is not involved in the current processes to secure the release of those still held in captivity.
“If there is any information he has concerning the remainder of those girls, he has, up till this moment not approached the government of Nigeria with it. All press enquirers on the subject should therefore be directed to Mr. Salkida.
“The facts as known to our officials and the international contacts assisting this process are that the remaining Chibok girls are there and we are not relenting on getting their release.
“As stated by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, the government is not relenting. We will continue to persist, and the parents should please not give up. They are also advised not to lose faith in this government’s ability to fulfil its promise that the girls will not be abandoned or forgotten.”
Salkida’s claim on the girls was hotly disputed yesterday by the Defence headquarters.
Its spokesman, Brigadier General John Agim, said the report that only 15 of the 113 missing Chibok schoolgirls are alive was aimed at discouraging government from going ahead with its plan to rescue the girls.
“They are only trying to discourage the government,” Agim was quoted as saying by online publisher, The Cable.
“In our operations, we have rescued hundreds of people in Boko Haram captivity, and when we profile them, most are not Chibok girls.
“But, look at when they first said the girls had been married off, we were able to secure the release of some of the girls.
“Every time, they are always saying the girls have been killed, we continue to secure their release just like we did recently.”
North Can Live Without VAT Accruals, NEF Boasts …Backs Wike, Southern Govs On Fiscal Federalism, Restructuring
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has boasted that the North was a rich region, and can survive on its resources without the “billions” accruing to Southern states.
The NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, made this known, yesterday, when he featured on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme.
He was reacting to the tussle between states and the Federal Government on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT).
VAT is a consumption tax paid when goods are purchased and services are rendered, and charged at a rate of 7.5 per cent.
Although Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on September 10, ordered that status quo be maintained pending the determination of an appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt.
Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.
At the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in Enugu, last Thursday, the 17 governors insisted that they have the constitutional mandate to collect VAT, and vowed to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the matter.
While some northern governors like Aminu Masari (Katsina), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), amongst others, had kicked against the move, the 17 Southern Governors led by Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had unanimously supported the position that “the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.”
Speaking, yesterday, during the television programme, Baba-Ahmed said, “I will advise that we wait to hear what the court says. However, even the fact that it has become an issue suggests that we really do need to address the fundamentals and the manner in which the federation works.
“We have always supported restructuring. We have always asked that a major and genuine shift initiative either by groups or the National Assembly so that matters like this be addressed properly.
“If we don’t do that now, then, we should get a leader that would do that in 2023. This administration appears not to understand the importance of restructuring; we do in the North, we recognise the fact that we need to change the manner in which we generate wealth and allocate (it).
“The thing is: the North wants restructuring; the North wants fiscal federalism. We are a rich region, and we can live on what we have, even if we don’t have the billions that accrue to others states. Our poverty is not a kind of problem that we would break this country over.”
According to him, the VAT war is a wake-up call to northern governors who need to recognise the fact that VAT or no VAT, they need to develop their resources and develop the human capital of the North.
The NEF spokesman added, “North, you said you have many people but you are under-developing your own people – the biggest liability of the North is that we have a huge population that is under-developed. You need to develop the human capital that you have.
“We need leaders; the current governors don’t recognise this. Otherwise, they won’t be involved in this argument; allow the court to decide.
“But for goodness sake, (they should) begin to think — what else can we do if the court decides now that Rivers State is right, Lagos State is right, and the Southern states are right, and they won’t be getting all these billions coming in from VAT? What happens?”
Baba-Ahmed said the Northern governors at this stage should not be sleeping, noting that the North is “sitting on wealth, we have massive resources in this country, we have to fight insecurity first, and the Federal Government has to help us, we need to clear the bushes, the forests and all the criminals that are there, and we need to go back to farming.
“Agriculture is a major asset; we have land, we have water, we have livestock, we have minerals that are literally begging to be picked from the ground but our governors are too focused on the pittance that they are getting. This is wrong”, he argued.
Boxing: Joshua Facing Toughest Test In Usyk?
Boxing champion, Anthony Joshua could face his toughest test yet when he fights Oleksandr Usyk in London on Saturday, says ex-world champion George Groves.
Joshua, 31, puts his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on the line against Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
The 34-year-old Ukrainian has won all 18 professional fights, beating Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora on that run.
“Technically, Usyk is brilliant,” said Groves . “He showed that in unifying the cruiserweight division in great fights and I believe he could be Joshua’s toughest test to date. This is the first fight when I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua got beaten.
“Joshua has fought [Wladimir] Klitschko and been in with Joseph Parker and also been beaten [by Andy Ruiz] and the only question mark for Usyk Is he big enough to compete with AJ?
“If Usyk keeps a high pace and makes Joshua miss with a lot of shots, that will work to Usyk’s advantage as he has probably got a better engine.
“Joshua is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous punching power and strength but has a tendency to tire out if the pace is uncomfortable for him.”
A crowd of more than 60,000 is expected and it will be the largest attendance Joshua has fought in front of since his win over Alexander Povetkin with 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in September, 2018.
Since then, Joshua has lost to Ruiz in New York before winning the rematch in Saudi Arabia and gained a ninth-round victory over Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena last December, with only 1,000 fans attending because of Coronavirus restrictions.
Both Joshua and Usyk won gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, at super-heavyweight and heavyweight respectively, with the Briton going on to win 24 of his 25 professional fights, including 22 inside the distance.
Meanwhile, Dillian Whyte, who lost to Joshua in 2015 and is pushing for a rematch with him or a shot at WBC champion, Tyson Fury, believes the key to beating Usyk on Saturday is to adopt an attacking strategy.
“I think it’s a great fight and Joshua will stop him in the first six or seven rounds,” Whyte told Tidesports source.
“Usyk will start fast and Joshua should be cagey as Usyk is a bit lighter. Joshua can sometimes lack confidence but hopefully he goes back to the old him, starts pressing, being the bigger, stronger guy and gets the job done early.
“If Joshua sets the pace, he can get an early knockout and if he is strong, confident and walks him down, then I don’t see Usyk’s punches troubling Joshua.”
Groves, who held the WBA Super-Middleweight belt in 2017 and 2018, added: “If I was Joshua, I would take control of the ring and try to dominate and bully off the front foot.
“Usyk will want to be off the back foot for the first couple of rounds, then try to pepper Joshua.
“If I was in the Joshua camp, I would say: You want to keep this guy in his box. You don’t want Usyk having any confidence, so hit him hard and early.
“In the first three rounds, you want to land something big on him.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn also suggested Joshua could get an early victory.
Hearn said: “I’m always nervous for an Anthony Joshua fight, especially when you’re fighting someone that really believes he is going to win”.
2022 AFCON: ‘Cameroon On Track’
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Patrice Motsepe, has said that Cameroon is “on track” to successfully host the Africa Cup of Nations early next year after visiting Olembe Stadium in Yaounde last weekend.
The venue will host the opening match and final of the AFCON in January and February of 2022.
A CAF delegation, including President Motsepe and General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, were joined by Cameroon’s Sports Minister, Professor Narcisse Mouelle Kombi in inspecting progress made at the Olembe Stadium and various other facilities in the capital city.
“I’m very satisfied with the briefing I got and what I saw. I saw the Olembe Stadium and it is world class; we should all be proud as people of Cameroon and as Africans,” said Motsepe, as quoted by CAF’s website.
“We must applaud Cameroon [for] building such infrastructure. In partnership with the Government, the Minister of Sports, LOC, FECAFOOT President and CAF administration under Veron [Mosengo-Omba], I’m certain that in January next year, the rest of the world will be impressed. I’m very satisfied with what I have seen. We are on track.”
Motsepe continued: “The quality of football that will be played here will once again show the world that Africa has the quality to one day win the FIFA World Cup, that is the ultimate goal. The AFCON is special and I think it is important for us to set the tone in Cameroon.”
Mosengo-Omba also heaped praises on Olembe Stadium: “The infrastructure and architecture of the stadium is world class and can be compared to many other famous stadiums globally. In Cameroon, we have six beautiful match venues. Our job now is to ensure that we are ready with everything else.”
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