By Adebayo Williams
The Federal Government has denied claims it paid Boko Haram $21 million to secure the release of 21 Chibok girls. The reports surfaced as a result of renewed attacks by the insurgents in recent weeks. The reports claimed that the terrorists had strengthened their armoury and operations with the money realised from the ransom collected. Speaking for the Presidency, the spokesman, Garba Shehu, said the money was not budgeted and could not have been spent. He challenged the newspaper making up the story, in a statement, to reveal how the said money was paid.
“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 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 reinvigorated Boko Haram,” the statement read in part.