A peace negotiator used in previous formal negotiations with Boko Haram - the group responsible for kidnapping hundreds of school girls - has proposed a formal negotiation process to the Nigerian government that he hopes will allow for the girls' safe return.
The operation could be convened quickly, with the girls returned, alive, within a week, Shehu Sani told ABC News.
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The negotiating team should involve a committee of Islamic clerics from the north-eastern region of the country, along with insurgents who are in prison, he said.Sani said he believes Boko Haram will be willing to return the girls in exchange for their members who have been incarcerated.
Boko Haram's threats to "sell" the girls into slavery is a positive signal because, normally, they vow to "kill" their captives, he added.
"Hope is not lost, as long as these girls are alive," he said.
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The peace negotiator, who has previously traveled to Maiduguri in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria, for direct talks with Boko Haram leadership in a burned-out mosque, is concerned that international attention is forcing Nigeria's government to take a hardline but miscalculated approach.
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"This government is helpless and hopeless on solving the problem" he said. "The most important thing is to get them back alive, and you cannot do that through force."
Instead of convening a negotiating mission, the Nigerian government has appointed a committee led by military and intelligence chiefs, to whom Boko Haram will be unwilling to talk, Sani said.
He cited recent examples of armed raids, attempting to rescue foreign hostages, that have resulted in the death of captives.
"The government of Nigeria is pretending to be serious simply because the world is taking an interest," he said.
Negotiator Devises Plan for Return of Nigerian Girls