Meet the man who brokered the deal to release 82 Chibok girls

Zannah Mustapha, the lawyer who facilitated the release of 82 Chibok school girls.


On May 6, 2017, the deadly Boko Haram sect released 82 kidnapped Chibok girls to the Federal Government of Nigeria.


The man who facilitated the release of the girls is Zannah Mustapha, a 57-year-old lawyer.


A BBC report detailed how the 82 girls, after three years in captivity, were handed over to Mustapha by the Boko Haram sect.


Upon the lawyer's arrival for the handing over of the girls, one of the members of the sect reportedly read out the girls' names from a list.


The girls, who were said to be covered from head to ankle in a dark-coloured hijab, filed out one by one.


"I went ahead of the Red Cross. They [the militants] brought the girls to me," Mustapha was quoted as saying.


The release exercise was said to have taken place along the outskirts of a forest near Kumshe town, on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon.


Mustapha was said to have been mediating between the government and the militants for the release of the girls and for an end to the Boko Haram insurgency.


More than 200 of the Chibok girls were abducted in April 2014, from the north-eastern town of Chibok, sparking global outrage.


The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had in 2015 said it was ready to negotiate with  "credible" leaders of Boko Haram to secure the girls' release.


In response to the call, different groups came forward, with each claiming to be Boko Haram representatives.


The report said it was Mustapha who succeeded in convincing the Federal Government that this particular group should be taken seriously.


"He (Mustapha) had dealt with them (Boko Haram) in the past and they keep to their word," Garba Shehu, Buhari's spokesman told novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.


Nwaubani profiled Mustapha in th


Mustapha's role as a mediator, she wrote, dates back to his founding the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School in 2007.


He was said to have founded the group to provide free Islamic-based education to orphans and the poor.


When the Boko Haram insurgency erupted in 2009, the school offered admission to the children of soldiers and government officials killed by the militants, as well as those of militants killed by the state.


Mustapha then sought the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which began providing free meals to the pupils, Nwaubani said.


Mustapha also encouraged parents to form an association which would reach out to other widows and convince them to send their children to his school.


The ICRC soon extended its humanitarian services to the mothers, providing them free food and other items every month.


"This was at a time when the wives of Boko Haram militants were being arrested and their houses demolished, so Boko Haram saw me and the ICRC as neutral parties," Mustapha said

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