Barrister Denise Ritchie has urged the federal government to step up with haste and utilize the unique role of Barrister Aisha Wakil in its efforts to negotiate the return of missing Chibok girls.
Wakil, nicknamed ‘Mama Boko Haram‘ by locals, was declared wanted by the Nigerian Army alongside Ahmed Bolori and journalist, Ahmad Salkida after Boko Haram terrorists released a video showing some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls in August 2016.
Denise, a New Zealand-based barrister and founder of Stop Demand Foundation expressed displeasure over the ‘wanted’ notice by the Army describing it as “bizarre and maligning.”
She questioned the failure of the Buhari-led administration involve the Barrister Wakil in its negotiation with the terrorists given her closeness with the group.
“While questions are being asked about the Army’s bizarre and maligning ‘Wanted’ notice on Mrs Wakil, as well as peace activist Ahmed Bolori, and journalist Ahmad Salkida who released the latest video featuring Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau with missing Chibok girls, a more pressing question is: will the government now engage with Mrs Wakil to broker talks with Boko Haram,” she said in a letter made available to Pulse.
“Boko Haram spokesmen have previously said that they would be willing to talk with the government through Ms Wakil, also known as ‘Mama Boko Haram’.
“So it is unfathomable that to date no one from the Buhari-led government has approached Aisha Wakil to explore facilitating such a meeting. More so, given that in March this year I attended with Ms Wakil, two meetings with Boko Haram representatives in Maiduguri.
“How is that a New Zealand woman visiting Maiduguri can attend with the woman dubbed ‘Mama Boko Haram’, two meetings with key Boko Haram representatives while the government has made no attempt to arrange even one such meeting through her?” Denise asked.
Speaking further, Denise said she found the Boko Haram representatives which included two commanders to be ‘approachable and respectful throughout the lengthy meetings where a number of issues, including the Chibok girls, were discussed.
She continued: “In recent months, President Buhari has asked for proof of life of the missing Chibok girls. He has it. He had it in May when Amina Ali Nkeki came out of the Sambisa Forest. He has it now with the latest video.”
Stop Demand, which has worked with Wakil for over a year described her as an “extraordinary, modest woman of the highest integrity who has worked tirelessly for years, often alone, to broker peace in the region.”
“In 2013 under the previous President Goodluck Jonathon she was appointed a member of the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the northern region of Nigeria.
“Under the current government, however, Aisha Wakil’s skills and knowledge have not been called upon, until this week when she was declared ‘Wanted’ and a person of value.
“Aisha Wakil is highly respected by many. She is highly regarded by many within Boko Haram. Stop Demand says the government has lost valuable time to date by not having sought the assistance of Ms Wakil earlier, to progress a peace dialogue. It urges it to do so now, as a matter of urgency,” she added.
Meanwhile, Aisha Wakil while speaking on her relationship with Boko Haram said she has been close with key members of the sect since they were kids.
Watch the video below.