Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has ruled out freeing Boko Haram prisoners in exchange for the release of more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls, British minister Mark Simmonds said yesterday.
Africa minister Simmonds, in Nigeria for talks about the international rescue mission, said he raised the issue with Jonathan during a meeting in Abuja.
"I did discuss this with the president and he made it very clear that there will be no negotiation with Boko Haram that involves a swap of abducted schoolgirls for prisoners," he told reporters in the country's capital.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau suggested in a video released on Monday that he may be prepared to release the girls if Nigeria freed militant fighters held in the country's jails.
Interior Minister Abba Moro immediately rejected the plan, telling AFP that the group, which has waged an increasingly deadly insurgency in northeast Nigeria since 2009, could not dictate terms.
Nigeria's has stated that it is ready to talk to the militants about ending the violence and special duties minister Taminu Turaki indicated on Tuesday that the girls could be one issue discussed.
But while Simmonds indicated that Jonathan has now ruled that out, he was still prepared to fulfil his pledge of talking to the extremists about wider issues to end the violence.
"The point that was also made very clear to me is that the president was keen to continue and facilitate ongoing dialogue to find a structure and architecture of delivering lasting solution to the conflict and the cause of the conflict in northern Nigeria," he added.