The presidency has denied that the government paid ransom to free the 21 Chibok girls released by Boko Haram last month.
In a statement on Saturday evening, Mr. Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said the government has “no such money under any allocation to pay out this outrageous sum of money as ransom.”
The presidency’s reaction comes a few hours after the Nigerian military issued a similar rebuttal to media reports that $21 million ransom was paid.
The 21 girls were among the over 200 kidnapped by the Boko Haram in April 2014. The others are still being held by the terrorists whose insurgency has caused the death of over 20,000 people and displacement of millions of others since 2009.
Mr. Shehu also used to statement to highlight the administration’s successes against Boko Haram.
“As at the time he came into power, Boko Haram occupied 80 per cent of Borno State, 40 per cent of Yobe, and a significant segment of Adamawa,” he said.
Read Mr. Shehu’s full statement below:
Over the past few days, some newspaper reports ascribing the recent terrorist attacks in Borno State to the government’s negotiation of the release of 21 Chibok girls, with a particular report alleging the exchange of USD 21 million for the girls are false and should be disregarded by members of the public. This loose talk is journalism at its most irresponsible and its most dismaying.
As a responsible government that is run on the basis of the constitution and budgets duly appropriated by the National Assembly, we have no such money under any allocation to pay out this outrageous sum of money as ransom.
Beyond the call of journalism, the newspaper making this charge has a national duty to point how and where this money was paid, and to supply leads as to where the “powerful weapons” were bought by the terrorists.
From the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the media, local and international groups, have persistently pressured the government to do everything possible to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls. During the election campaigns, President Buhari himself expressed commitment to this and also to bringing an end to terrorism in our country. We then wonder why anyone is turning the defeat of terror and return of the missing persons against the government.
As at the time he came into power, Boko Haram occupied 80 percent of Borno State, 40 percent of Yobe, and a significant segment of Adamawa. Today, the group does not control any territory. The government also has successfully enabled the release of 23 Chibok girls, while negotiations for the release of more, possibly all the rest, are in progress.
The successes recorded by the government in the fight against terrorism have been a result of collaboration between our country’s various security agencies, particularly the Department of State Services, the Police, the Civil Defence, Air Force, the Navy and the Army. Representatives from these arms of our security agencies were also involved in the process of the release of the 21 Chibok girls. It is, therefore, unfair and reckless of any medium to quote unnamed, allegedly disgruntled sources within the military, who now claim that the girls’ release has reinvigorated Boko Haram.
Boko Haram operated freely before the Buhari administration came into power, before they had the Chibok girls and after the girls were abducted from their school. Therefore, whatever the group relies on for strength cannot suddenly be ascribed to the conditions of the negotiations brokered by the local interlocutor, the Swiss government and help from them the International Red Cross, ICRC.
May I humbly, once again appeal to the Nigerian media to continue their unflinching support to the military and other security agencies as they fight to free our country from terrorism. Terrorism and insurgencies remain the biggest threat to Nigeria’s security, economy and national development. The war against terrorism is a matter of life and death, not a marketing tool for selling more newspapers or increasing traffic to websites.
The President has utmost confidence in the nation’s media and urges them to do more to assist and augment the nation’s internal security.