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Lai Mohammed lied, Dapchi girls were released after “large ransom payment” – UN Report

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“LARGE ransom payment” was made to Boko Haram to secure the release of the over 100 schoolgirls kidnapped from a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State in February this year, according to the 22nd report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nations’ Security Council.

This is contrary to what Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, told journalists at the time that the girls were released following “back-channel” negotiations brokered with the help of some “friends of the country”. He maintained that no ransom was paid for their release,  and also denied that any Boko Haram prisoner was swapped as part of the negotiations.

“It is not true that we paid ransom for the release of the Dapchi girls, neither was there a prisoner swap to secure their release,” Mohammed said. “What happened was that the abduction itself was a breach of the ceasefire talks between the insurgents and the government, hence it became a moral burden on the abductors. Any report that we paid ransom or engaged in prisoner swap is false.”

However, part of the UN Security Council report, which was presented before the council on July 23, read thus: “In Nigeria, 111 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi were kidnapped on 18 February 2018 and released by ISWAP on 21 March 2018 in exchange for a large ransom payment.”

The number of girls abducted in Dapchi was 110, out of which 104 were released, five were said to have died in captivity, and one, Leah Sharibu, who is said to have refused to convert to Islam, is still in captivity. One boy was released alongside the 104 girls.

The UN report also stated that the lack of control in the movement of cash in the Northern region was one of the reasons the Boko Haram insurgency has continued to thrive.

“The predominance in the region of the cash economy, without controls, is conducive to terrorist groups funded by extortion, charitable donations, smuggling, remittances, and kidnapping,” it read.

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Following the release of the Dapchi girls and the earlier release of 82 of the Chibok girls kidnapped in April 2014, the Nigerian Senate condemned the payment of ransoms to Boko Haram, saying that it empowers the terrorists to continue their nefarious activities.

“They devise a means of going to abduct people so that they would negotiate with the federal government for ransom, said Joshua Lidani, Senator representing Gombe South.

“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, the 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.”

The BBC reported that the federal government paid Boko Haram 2 million Euros in cash, and also freed some Boko Haram prisoners to secure the release of the 82 Chibok girls in 2017.

“The ransom was two million euros. Boko Haram asked for euros. They chose the suspects and they gave us the list of girls who would be freed,” the BBC quoted an unnamed source as saying.

The federal government has consistently denied the claims.

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