Nigerian barrister Aisha Wakil is calling on the Nigerian army to explain the reasons behind the decision to declare her 'wanted'. On 14 August, Colonel Sani Usman, army spokesman, said Wakil, activist Ahmed Bolori and journalist Ahmad Salkida were wanted due to their "close ties with Boko Haram" terrorists.

The army also alleged the three people were "in possession of information" regarding the whereabouts of schoolgirls kidnapped by the group in the village of Chibok, Borno state, in April 2014.

The army made the allegations shortly after Boko Haram released a video purportedly showing some 50 Chibok girls and calling for the release of militants in in return for the release of the girls.

"How can they declare me wanted when they know me very well and they know my house? Wanted for what? If they think I have information on the Chibok girls, why did they not come and ask me? Now that they declared me wanted, did any information on the Chibok girls come out?" Wakil told IBTimes UK during a phone conversation from the federal capital of Abuja.

Mama Boko Haram
Aisha Wakil, known as Mama Boko Haram, during a conference on radicalisation held in London IBTimes UK

Wakil is known to locals in north-eastern Nigeria – the epicentre of Boko Haram's insurgency – as "Mama Boko Haram" due to her connection with the group.

She advocates for dialogue rather than the use of military force to defeat the insurgents and was appointed by the country's previous president, Goodluck Jonathan, as part of a team to trace the 300 Chibok girls after the abduction.

Wakil was also part of a Boko Haram Amnesty Committee, established in 2013. The year before, she and her husband had been nominated by a Boko Haram "representative" to negotiate a peace deal on behalf of the group.

"I have been in this, trying to bring peace between the government and Boko Haram, for the past seven years. I am known to the media, I am known to Nigeria, I have had meetings with them [the army] and told them what the boys [Boko Haram] are saying they want them to do so that this ends. They should know that I am a good asset to end this problem," Wakil said.

"The boys told me that the girls are alive and I believe them, the boys don't lie. These boys are our kids from the north-east. I know them, we all grew up there, I know many of them who started this," she continued. "But the army believes they can do things by themselves, by bombing people, but this is not the right way. All I want is peace in my country. they should meet us instead of declaring us wanted."

A way to distort attention

Activist and peace ambassador Ahmed Umar Bolori, who was approached by Boko Haram in a failed recruitment attempt, believes the army is trying to distort attention from the latest Chibok video.

"In the video, one of the girls said the army had killed many of their fellows. So the army now wants to clear its name and that's why they are trying to frame us and divert international attention from the problem," he told IBTimes UK.

Ahmed Umar Bolori
Ahmed Bolori

Bolori alleged that the military offensive against the insurgents has resulted in the death of innocent civilians who are being held hostage by the group.

"Bombs cannot differentiate between insurgents and innocent people. If the army and Boko Haram really want to fight, let them go and fight, but this cannot be at the expense of innocent people. This is what we have been calling for – we had several meetings with the army but at the end it didn't work because they army showed very little interest," Bolori said.

He added he did not know the whereabouts of the Chibok girls and Boko Haram.

"I tried to link Mama Boko Haram with the current army administration and the army should listen to us. All we have been asking for is peace. It is not just about the Chibok girls, but all of the people who have been abducted and the hundreds of thousands of people displaced in IDP camps, with no food," he continued.

Salkida has not responded to a request for comments. On his blog, the journalist, who is not based in Nigeria, said he planned to fly to Abuja and "avail myself to the army authorities".

Army's position

The Nigerian army and the spokesperson for President Muhammadu Buhari have not responded to a request for comments on the claims. Colonel Rabe Abubakar, spokesperson for the country's ministry of defence, declined to comment on the claims against the army.

However, he told IBTimes UK the fight against Boko Haram was successful. "We are investigating on the video and the allegations made in the video. In the meantime, the operations against Boko Haram have been very successful, we are making progress and we will not relent," he said.

Following the emergence of the video, Nigeria's information minister Lai Mohammed said the government was "on top of the situation".

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Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram?

Boko Haram, which has renamed itself Iswap, fights against Western influence in Nigeria and aims to impose its version of Sharia law throughout occupied territories.

The group launches attacks in Nigeria and neighbouring countries in a bid to take control of more territory. Three Nigerian states − Adamawa, Borno and Yobe − have been under a state of emergency since May 2013.

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people since 2009 and was deemed the world's deadliest terror group, surpassing Islamic State in November 2015. Nigeria has also become the world's third-most terrorised country as a result of the group's violent insurgency.