Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu has confirmed that negotiations are ongoing to secure the release of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls held captive by Boko Haram. On the government side, the Department of State Service (DSS) leads the negotiations. Garba Shehu did not identify the Boko Haram interlocutors. He expressed optimism about the negotiations, but cautioned that they were still underway: “To my friends spreading the news of a further release of the Chibok girls, we not there yet.” Recently, army spokesman have said that the Nigerian military has rescued nearly 1900 other Boko Haram kidnap victims over the past week, but Reuters has been unable to verify the claim.
The DSS, often called the State Security Service (SSS), is the leading domestic intelligence agency in Nigeria. It is part of the executive. At present Lawal Musa Darwa, a security professional with extensive DSS experience, heads it. At one time, he was responsible for the security of the Villa, the Abuja residence of the chief of state. A northern Muslim, President Buhari made him director of DSS in 2015. It is not clear the extent to which he is personally involved in the negotiations.
The commendable caution of Garba Shehu makes his optimism about the ultimate success of the negotiations credible. The time may be approaching when most of the Chibok girls will be free. There have been a number of high-profile attempts to help re-integrate the girls into Nigerian society, but there are still many challenges.