The Nigerian government has reversed its rejection of talks with Boko Haram militants on freeing the nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls held captive for more than a month. On Tuesday, Nigerian Special Duties Minister Taminu Turaki said he is open to negotiations, including over the girls’ fate. The Nigerian government had previously dismissed an apparent offer from the Boko Haram to free the girls in return for the government’s release of the group’s jailed members. In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed U.S. forces are flying surveillance planes over Nigeria in a bid to find the girls. Carney also voiced opposition to ransom talks with the Boko Haram, but said the United States will follow Nigeria’s lead.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We’re focused on working with the Nigerian government to locate and bring home those girls. That includes a team of individuals that I itemized yesterday. It also includes manned reconnaissance flights that I can confirm we are conducting in cooperation with the Nigerian government. When it comes to the approach to Boko Haram in this case, Nigeria of course has the lead, and we play a supporting role. It is the policy of the United States to deny kidnappers the benefits of their criminal acts, and that includes ransoms or concessions.”
Daily protests continue in Nigeria for the girls’ return. In Lagos, women’s rights activist Joei Odumakin vowed to march on the town where the girls were seized if they are not returned safely.
Joei Odumakin: “The girls must be rescued now, and that should be done while they are still alive. And that is the essence of this protest, and that’s why all of us are gathered here. And we are kickstarting with Lagos on Tuesday. We are moving to the east on Wednesday. That’s Enugu. Wednesday, we’ll be in Lokoja. Thursday, we’ll be in Onitsha, Onitsha and Kaduna. We are going to be in Jigawa. At the end of 14 days of the nationwide protests, if nothing is done, God forbid, all of us are going to protest half-naked inside Chibok. We are going there, and we are ready to lay down our lives.”