Boko Haram has listed 19 of its commanders to be swapped with 30 Chibok girls, The Nation learnt yesterday.
The Federal Government and the facilitators of talks with the sect have the list, a source said.
Also included is the list of 30 girls, who may be set free to test the Federal Government’s commitment to the swap deal before 189 others can be released.
The girls – 15 Christians and 15 Muslims – may breathe the air of freedom after Eid-el-Kabir festival when all the parties return to the negotiation table.
But the government is still insisting on the release of all the 218 girls for what a source described as a “meaningful swap deal”.
It was learnt yesterday that the Federal Government and its negotiation facilitators will return to the talks with only a request: release of all the girls.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the Boko Haram bargaining list had been made available to all those involved in the recent talks.
The last talks in Abuja were attended by the facilitator, who is also the President, Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, Comrade Shehu Sani; ICRC officials; a former Minister of Information; a Geneva-based human rights activist; a two-man delegation of Boko Haram; two others close to the sect’s leadership and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader.
Some of the 30 girls in the first batch were said to have been given consideration upon discovery that they are married with children.
A source said the 30 girls will be released on compassionate ground by the sect to demonstrate that it is “really committed to the swap deal and had treated the girls with fairness.”
As at press time, only the names of 20 of the 30 girls were made available to our correspondent by a source, who said the list was restricted for “strategic purpose”.
But the full list of the 19 Boko Haram commanders was obtained yesterday.
Some of the Christian girls to be let off the hook are Mary Usman; Julie Yakubu; Jummai Paul; Rahila Bitrus; Rabika Lukas; Rodha John; Naomi Yohanna; Ruth Kolo; Tabitha Fagu; and Hannatu Isiaku.
The Muslim girls are Kwadugu Manu; Hauwa Wule; Aishatu Grema; Aisha Lawan; Halima Gamba; Kabu Malla; Mariam Abubakar; Rakiya Gamba; Hamsatu Abubakar; and Hasana Adamu.
The 19 Boko Haram commanders for the trade-off are: Awwal Albani Sultaniya; Malam Abdullahi Damasak; Mallam Bashir; Baa Malam; Mallam Tijjani al Barnawi; Mallam Musa Moby; Mallam Awara; Mallam Zindar Zindawi; Baa Alhaji; Bana Mongono; Baraa Mallami; Sheikh Umar ibn Mustapha; Mallam Jabir Al Jjihad; Tanko al Kurd; Mallam Aradu; Abidina Janzila and Mallam Aboul Kaka.
A source said: “The government and Boko Haram are very close to a swap deal on the abducted Chibok girls if it is not bungled the last minute again.
“We hope that at the resumption of talks after the Eid-el Kabir festival, all the negotiators will have a common ground on all issues involved in the deal so that the girls can at least regain freedom.
“Although the sect may opt for a phased release, beginning with 30 girls, the government is insisting on wholesale freedom. There is a ray of hope.”
Another source said: “The government is adamant on the release of all the 219 girls because the 19 commanders demanded by Boko Haram are “key strategists of the sect”.
“Some of the commanders are ‘deadly’ because they are ready to lay down their lives any time. They do not hide their commitment to the sect even in their various detention facilities in Maiduguri, Kaduna and Abuja.
“In fact, security agencies are skeptical about freedom for Malam Abdullahi Damasak, who is rated as the ‘most lethal’ among the commanders.
“The government is circumspect that if the 19 commanders are released, Boko Haram might only let 30 girls free instead of 219. The government does not want to fall into any negotiation trap which will compound the woes of the abducted girls.”
No government official or any of the parties to the secret negotiation was willing to respond to issues on the swap deal.
A senior government official, who was speculated to be part of the covert deal, simply said: “I am not in a position to admit or deny that report (the list).”
But a veteran Nigerian civil rights activist, Fred Eno, who was part of the talks, told The Telegraph of UK last week: “We felt the negotiations would go better with the backing of a major international humanitarian organisation like the ICRC.
“There have been two or three ICRC people at each meeting – international staff rather than Nigerians – and they accompany the government security agents to the various prisons and detention centres to identify the people that Boko Haram want released.”