The Federal Government has denied paying $21 million ransom for the release of the 21 Chibok schoolgirls.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a statement last night, described as false, media reports ascribing the recent terrorist attacks in Borno State to the government’s negotiation of the release of 21 Chibok girls.
Shehu said a particular report claiming the exchange of $21 million for the schoolgirls was a loose talk that should be disregarded by members of the public.
He said as a responsible government run on the basis of the constitution and the budgets duly appropriated by the National Assembly, Buhari’s administration had no such money “under any allocation to pay out this outrageous sum as ransom.”
He said beyond the call of journalism, the newspaper making the allegation had a national duty to mention how and where the money was paid as well as to supply leads “as to where the powerful weapons were bought by the terrorists.”
Shehu stated: “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 Defense, 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 re-invigorated 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 the International Red Cross.”
The presidential aide appealed to the media to continue their “unflinching support” to the military and other security agencies as they fight to free the country from terrorism.
He noted that terrorism and insurgency remained the biggest threat to Nigeria’s security, economy and national development.