Zannah Mustapha is the 57-year-old lawyer who brokered the release of 82 Chibok girls who were captured by Islamist group Boko Haram more than three years ago, BBC news reports.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani in this report by BBC profiles the lawyer who recounted how the breakthrough was accomplished.
by one, the abducted schoolgirls, now women, lined up along the
outskirts of a forest near Kumshe town, on the border between Nigeria
“I went ahead of the Red Cross. They [the militants]
brought the girls to me,” he said, adding that the girls started
singing for joy when they got into Red Cross vehicles. Previous
negotiation attempts had failed, with different groups coming forward,
each claiming to be the militants in possession of the missing
“One of about seven Boko Haram militants, who
accompanied them, went from woman to woman asking: “Throughout the time
you were with us, did anyone rape you or touch you?” Mr Mustapha said,
adding that each of them replied in the negative.
Mr Mustapha succeeded in convincing the Nigerian authorities that this particular group should be taken for what they say.
role as a mediator dates back to his founding the Future Prowess
Islamic Foundation School in 2007, 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.
He then sought the
assistance of the Red Cross (ICRC) which began providing free meals to
the pupils. He 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.
The Boko Haram saw him and the ICRC as neutral parties.