There are very strong indications that five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the freedom of the 82 Chibok schoolgirls.
A top government official in Nigeria confirmed this to Associated Press.
It was gathered that the deal was negotiated by Mustapha Zanna, a barrister who is currently the proprietor of an orphanage in Maiduguri, but who was once the lawyer of the late founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. The deal also involved the Swiss government and the Red Cross.
The confirmation of the prisoner swap is coming barely a day after the schoolgirls were liberated after more than three years in captivity by the Islamic militants.
There was no immediate comment about the exchange from the Nigerian presidency or Boko Haram but President Muhammadu Buhari had on Saturday said that some Boko Haram prisoners had been released for the freedom of the schoolgirls.
The president did not however give details on the swap.
The Guardian quoted Shehu Sani, a Nigerian senator, as saying that lengthy negotiations took place in Switzerland and Sudan.
Sani told The Guardian that it was he who introduced Zanna, the chief negotiator, to the government and came up with a road map for the talks.
Later, Sani confirmed that they were five commanders, raising questions about why the group would exchange so many high-profile prisoners for a handful of members.
Asked whether the five commanders could strengthen Boko Haram, analyst Ryan Cummings thought not.
“I doubt it very much. Boko Haram is massively decentralised and is more an umbrella movement than a monolithic movement. Commanders could have a localised impact in areas that they return to, but it will have no wider impact,” he said.
It is understood that the freed young women were flown on Sunday by military helicopters from northeastern Nigeria to Abuja, the capital, where they met the president.
“They will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable horror and trauma they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Pernille Ironside, acting representative of UNICEF Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is expected to take charge of Nigeria as President Buhari this evening left the county for London where he is scheduled to follow-up medical consultation with his doctors.