Before the interview in which he alleged that some prominent Nigerians had links with the Boko Haram terrorist organisation, little was known about Dr. Stephen Davis by most Nigerians. Earlier this month, Australian counter terrorism officials conducted separate interviews with Stephen
Davis and his wife. They wanted to know what Dr Davis had been doing in Nigeria for the past four
Dr Davis, a self-described “amateur peacemaker” from Perth, had embarked on a solo mission to rescue some of the more than 200 schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram militants in April.
“I was very confident when I left because I had spoken with some of the commanders and organised the
release and handover of some of the girls,” he said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone.”
If the Australian investigators asked Dr Davis to name his occupation, he may have struggled.
The 63-year-old, who has a doctorate in political geography, was a mining consultant to global resources
company WMC and to petroleum giant Shell. It was at Shell in the mid 2000s that he began peace
negotiations with rebels in the Niger Delta. He then served as an advisor to two Nigerian presidents,
developing links with terror cells as he negotiated on behalf of the government.
A devout Christian, he moved to Britain to work as a canon in the Ministry of Reconciliation at Coventry
Cathedral, alongside future Archbishop of Canterbury John Welby.
But when Dr Davis heard of the schoolgirl kidnapping in the village of Chibok , he decided to act.
He began remote negotiations with elements of Boko Haram. In Nigeria, he then travelled with a former
Boko Haram guide in a beat-up car across the country’s north, setting up a hand-over of girls that
would contribute to a peace deal with the government.
But each of the three attempted transfers were thwarted by powerful political forces looking to
undermine the ruling party, Dr Davis said in a telephone interview.
“They were sabotaged each one of them in the end but we had commanders willing to do it.”
The only success in his mission came after he received a phone call from a man who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram. They began orchestrating an escape for a small number of girls, with four eventually managing to cross from a camp on the Cameroon side of the border to a safe place in Nigeria.
“They’re pretty heroic these young girls, pretty amazing,” he said. “What they went through is
The changing face of Nigerian terrorism Dr Davis said Boko Haram had become more hardline
since a peace deal with the government collapsed last year
He accused members of Nigeria’s political opposition of sponsoring the more extreme elements of the group in order to weaken the ruling party.
“Some of the guys are uncontrolled in that they are just beheading people before they even know who the person is,” he said. “Or they go into a village and they’ll disembowel a pregnant woman and take the live foetus for a ritual.”
Dr Davis said the situation in Nigeria was deteriorating faster than at any time in the past 12 years.
“When Boko Haram links up with ISIL – and there is interaction between the two – and with [terrorist
group] al-Shabbab, that triangle is going to be the new home of terrorism like the world has not seen,” he said.
“The guys before – there was no kidnapping, no rape. They wouldn’t kidnap women or children, because that was contrary to the Koran. Now these guys will do anything, they are a totally different breed.”
Dr Davis stressed the importance of negotiating with terrorists, no matter their crimes.
“You’ve got to find common ground, you simply have to,” he said.
“There is so much ground you can shift, if you’ve got time, and you can sit down again and again and
But he doubted another deal involving the release of kidnapped girls could be negotiated at the moment, “because things have tightened up so much”.
“If it leaked out that they were willing to negotiate the releases of the girls or to talk of a peace deal, then other commanders would execute them,” he said.