Davis said they lived up to their promise, but in a region ravaged by war and corruption, the rescue was sabotaged.
“The girls were there, 60 girls, there were 20 vehicles with the girls,” he said. “We travelled for four-and-a-half hours to reach them, but 15 minutes before we arrived they were kidnapped again by another group who wanted to cash in on a reward.
“The police had offered a reward of several million naira just 24 hours before we went to pick them up. “I understand, from the Boko Haram commanders I spoke to, the girls eventually ended up back with them.
“I don’t know what happened to the group that took them but I suspect it wasn’t good,” he disclosed. Davis said a young man kidnapped by Boko Haram and used as a driver later helped a handful of girls to escape.
One kidnapped girl, who managed to avoid having her mobile phone confiscated by turning it off and hiding it in her bra, managed to call her family while hiding in bushes, but had no idea where she was or which direction she should be heading.
After being told to walk west by following the sunset each evening, the four girls managed to cross the border from Cameroun and into Nigeria before being reunited with their families. So far they are the only girls to have escaped from a Boko Haram camp.
When Davis later tried to contact, via text, the young man who helped them, he received a sobering reply. “The person you are trying to contact has gone on a journey from which there is no return,” the reply read. “He was an infidel.”
Davis said the longer he stayed in Nigeria the more it dawned on him the kidnappings would not end. “It became very clear that if I was able to get 50 girls released, then another group would kidnap 70 or 80 more. So by freeing 50 you were consigning 70 or 80 more to the same fate,” he explained.
Davis said initially journalists from around the world including CNN, the ABC and BBC flocked into the country, but they concluded it was far too dangerous to send any crew into the North-east of the country. He said since then, the violence in North-east Nigeria and the threat of foreign journalists being kidnapped and beheaded, there has been limited coverage of the crimes being committed by Boko Haram.
“Boko Haram used to telephone Nigerian journalists and give them a story, but that doesn’t happen anymore,” he said.
“They go straight to social media. They post their own material and they’ve learnt to become very savvy on social media and use it as an instrument to terrorise.”
Davis, who has a PhD in political geography, has worked as an adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
He also worked for Shell in Nigeria in an advisory capacity between 2002 and 2004.