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Red Cross not part of negotiations for release of UNIMAID lecturers


ICRC vehicles beginning the handover operation in north-east Nigeria, 10 February 2018. PHOTO: ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it was not a part of the negotiations that led to the release of three University of Maiduguri lecturers and 10 other persons kidnapped by a faction of Boko Haram headed by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi.

The Nigerian government announced the release of the 13 people Saturday in a statement. It claimed that they were freed after a series of negotiations authorised by President Muhammadu Buhari and ‘facilitated’ by the ICRC.

ICRC, however,  said it was a “neutral intermediary” and that the role it played was similar to the ones it did during the release of two batches of Chibok Girls by the insurgents in October 2016 and May 2017.

“The ICRC was not involved in any negotiations that led to the handover of the 13 people,” ICRC said in a statement on Saturday.

“The armed opposition handed the 13 people over to ICRC representatives who transported them to Nigerian authorities. This action was similar to what the ICRC did in October 2016 and May 2017, when we transported the released ‘Chibok girls’ to Nigerian officials.”

Its involvement, it said, was at the request of the parties to the on-going armed conflict.

The three university lecturers released on Saturday were part of an NNPC team on a mission to find commercial quantities of crude oil in the Lake Chad basin.

Not less than 69 people were killed in the raid that targeted a military and police convoy, according to an AFP report. The vice-chancellor of UNIMAID Professor Ibrahim Njodi said five members of staff from the university – two lecturers, two technologists and a driver – were among those killed.

Shortly after their kidnap, the three men appeared in a video released by the insurgents, pleading for a government intervention.

“I want to call on the acting president professor Yemi Osinbajo to come to our rescue to meet the demand,” one of the men said in the video.

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