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Shehu told The ICIR on Saturday while commenting on trending reports that the federal government paid 800 million naira to bandits for the release of the kidnapped schoolboys at the Government Science College, Kangara Niger State.
“A Buhari government cannot do a thing like that,” Shehu told The ICIR in a text message.
Similarly, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, also denied reports that the government would pay or had already paid ransom to the bandits.
Mohammed also said this Saturday when he featured on Channels TV’s Sunrise Saturday programme.
“All these stories about ransom are conspiracy theories… I can assure you that the government is on top of the matter – but it is not a subject matter for television discussion,” Mohammed said.
Early Saturday morning, #800m was the leading trend on Twitter, a social media platform commonly used in Nigeria.
Many Nigerians took to Twitter to react to the reports that their government had paid 800 million NAIRA to bandits in Niger State.
A Twitter user identified as Bianca Adeniran, with the handle @quinbeemodellar, slammed the government for allegedly spending tax payers’ money to pay ransom to bandits.
“So, after collecting tax, stamp duty, they will use the money and pay bandits #800m, am sorry but this government is the worst thing that happened to Nigeria since inception. Sani Abacha was right all along ‘If insurgency lasts for more than 24 hours, the gov. has a hand in it,” said Adeniran in a tweet liked and retweeted more than 1,500 times.
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Another user identified as Chinaks Chris, with the handle @ChrisTalker247, lamented the government’s inability to yield to the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) but ready to pay ransom to bandits.
“I am still trying to wrap my head around the facts that ASUU strike went on for close to 1 year without FG making the payment ASUU demanded but the same FG was comfortable giving bandits #800m. It’s official, FG spend (sic) more on terrorism than Education,” Chris said.
Many other users in a similar line of thought expressed their dissatisfaction over the unconfirmed report.
As of the time of filing this report, there had not been an official pronouncement that the schoolboys had been released from the bandits’ custody.
Meanwhile, Abubakar Gumi, a renowned Islamic scholar, has advised the federal government to grant ‘blanket amnesty’ to bandits in Niger State.
Gumi, who met with the bandits, said this while giving an update about their demands on Friday.
“The federal government should give them blanket amnesty. Then if somebody continues, then we will deal with them,” Gumi said.