Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the United Nations to help with negotiating an exchange of the schoolgirls taken from the northeastern town of Chibok in return for the release of detained leaders of the Boko Haram militant group, a statement from the government said on Thursday.
Boko Haram abducted the 276 schoolgirls in April 2014. Since then, only one of them has been found.
Speaking on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly in New York, Buhari told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that splits within the ranks of Boko Haram made it difficult to secure an exchange deal.
"Government had reached out, ready to negotiate, but it became difficult to identify credible leaders. We will welcome intermediaries such as UN outfits, to step in," Buhari said.
According to Nigeria's Information Ministry, the government nearly secured the girls' release three times in the past but its efforts failed to bear fruit.
In August, the DAESH terrorist organisation announced that the leader of Boko Haram, with which it is affiliated, had been replaced by Abu Musab al Barnawi.
However, the group’s former leader, Abubakar Shekau, denied this, insisting that he is still in charge.
Boko Haram became active in northern Nigeria in 2009. At least 20,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million others have been forced to flee their homes due to the trail of destruction caused by the group.
Buhari was elected as the president of Nigeria in 2015 after promising to defeat Boko Haram. However, Nigeria's Army has faced criticism from parents of the abductees for failing to find the girls, as well as human rights activists for the tactics used against the group.