By Bayo Bernard
On January 28, 2018 President Muhammadu Buhari warned African heads of state at a meeting in Adis Ababa, Ethiopia that the only way to stop terrorism in the continent is to stop paying ransom to terrorists. But barely a month after that incident the Presidency of Nigeria has come under stern criticism for allegedly paying huge sums of money to the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists for the release of over 105 schoolgirls kidnapped late last month in Dapchi, Yobe by the group.
The 105 school girls were released exactly 26 days after they were abducted from their school in Dapchi a popular town in the state. The federal government had today confirmed the release of the girls, though it has remained silent on whether ransom was indeed paid before they were set free by their abductors.
Giving details of the release an online medium Sahara Reporters said the girls were releases in the early hours of today, adding that five of the abducted girls were dead. According to the medium the federal government has also failed to disclose the fate of the remaining five girls and whether money was paid to the terrorists to secure freedom for the girls.
The federal government last year came under close scrutiny after allegation that it paid the same terror group several millions of dollars to secure the release of some of the 276 school girls kidnapped in Chibok, Borno state in March, 2014. The allegation was however denied by the President Buhari led government.
But on February 22 this year the Nigerian Senate claimed that the federal government was being economical with the truth, that the terror group received settlement in cash before they released over 100 of the schools girls abducted four years ago. Some senators spoke on the need for the federal government to come up with a new security strategy to protect Nigerians from danger posed by Boko Haram, following the abduction of school girls in Dapchi, Yobe state,
Even though the senators did not specify how much was paid to secure the release of the Chobok girls, the senators disclosed that kidnapping girls and women have now become a big business for the terror group. For instance Senator Ahmen Lawam , the Senate Leader said during the debate that Boko Haram now use abductees “as target to get funds”.
Lawan said the sect now use abduction od school girls to make cool cash. “What happened is a lesson for us. That Boko Haram sees girls or women as value targets. What they did in Chibok earned them some funds, because negotiations were held somehow and they got a lot of money.”
This must stop he said.“Now, the lesson is, we need to be extra careful and take extraordinary measures in protecting our schools; especially girls’ schools in those states especially Borno, Yobe and Adamawa,” Lawan stated.
Another senator, Joshua Lidani also said that federal government also paid money for the release of some staff of University of Maiduguri abducted by the group last year. He said the federal government must find a way to stop enriching the blood thirsty group whose major preoccupation is to kidnap girls and women.
“They devise a means of going to abduct people so that they would negotiate with the federal government for ransom. It happened with the recent abduction of Maiduguri staff that were on an exploration. The government negotiated with them and they got money.
“Now they have been empowered, even with police officers wives, federal government went and negotiated with them and they were given money. We need to be very proactive in this case because the idea of sitting down to always negotiating and paying ransom with this action, we are empowering the Boko- Haram so that they would continue to do more,” he said
His warning came on the heels of suggestions that the money paid to the terror group provide them more resources to unleash more terror on the country. For instance, sources claimed that the faction of the Boko Haram paid for the release of Chibok girls contained some of best bomb makers in the group. Five of them were said to have been released alongside the cash as part of the swap agreement had with the federal government last year.
The British Broadcasting Corporation had last year reported that the federal government paid two million British Pound to the terror group aside the released of five of its bomb making commanders.
The BBC, however said that it was very hard for presidential advisers to convince President Buhari on the need to pay the ransom, who impressed it on the president to secure the release of the girls to boost his ratings among Nigerians and international community. According to the BBC, the money paid in cash was handed over to the insurgents in exchange for the release of the girls.
“It should have happened sooner” BBC said quoting a source “but the President was hesitating about freeing the five (commanders) – and especially about the money,” the BBC quoted a source with detailed knowledge of the deal, as saying.
“The issue of the money was the most difficult part of the whole negotiation. He didn’t want to pay any money. The ransom was €2m. Boko Haram asked for euros. They chose the suspects and gave us the list of girls who would be freed,” the source said. Zanna Mustapha, a human rights lawyer was said to have negotiated the deal in the release of the 82 Chibok girls.
There were mixed reaction on the payment of cash to Boko haram for the release of their victims. While some opine that no amount is to much to get the girls back, some insist that paying the terrorists will further them to blossom. But the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed denied the payment of ransom to the sect.
, “I emphatically deny on behalf of the Federal Government that any form of ransom was paid in exchange for the release of the 82 Chibok girls.
“Apart from the five Boko Haram commanders, the exchange of which we had already made public, no other concession was made. Any other thing to the contrary is absolutely false, Mohammed said
President Buhari had told African head of states in Ethiopia rhar“any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts should be brought to justice,”
Kidnapping for money is a big business for terrorist group across the globe. At least $125 million was paid to Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates for kidnappings since 2008, mostly by European countries, according to a report by The New York Times.
“These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funneled the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East,” the paper said. The bulk of the fund is used in recruitment, training and arms purchases by the terrorists, it stated.