Huge ransom paid by FG for release of Dapchi schoolgirls—UN report

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*President Muhammadu Buhari (in white cap and dark glasses) with the Dapchi schoolgirls

It’s a mere conjecture—Lai Mohammed

Contrary to claims by the federal government that not a farthing was paid to Boko Haram for the release of Dapchi schoolgirls, a United Nations report has faulted such position.

In its report released on Thursday and titled ‘22nd Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, pursuant to resolution 2368 (2017) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – ISIL – (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities,’ the UN said the girls were freed by the Boko Haram terrorists in exchange for a large ransom payment.

NewsGazette recalls that on Monday, February 19, 2018, Boko Haram insurgents invaded Government Girls Science Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe state, abducting 111of the 906 student population.

One hundred and five of the students regained freedom on March 21, 2018, while five were said to have died of asphyxiation on the day of captivity and were given a mass burial.

But the lone Christian girl among the captives, Leah Sharibu, is still held by her captors because she refused to renounce her faith.

The minister of information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, had denied reports that the federal government paid millions of Euros for the release of the girls, maintaining that negotiations through a back-channel led to the release of the girls and a boy

“The girls were released…through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country,” said Mohammed.

But the UN report, contradicting the minister’s claim was signed by Edmund Fitton-Brown, Coordinator, Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, who said the report was “comprehensive and independent”, and Kairat Umarov, chair, Security Council Committee.

“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.

“Meanwhile, Boko Haram (QDe.138) and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have had a similar impact in their areas of control, including the Lake Chad basin.

“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,” said the report.

The UN said the number of doctrinally based non-governmental organisations sending funds to local terrorist groups was growing adding that member states were concerned that radicalisation was increasing the threat level in the Sahel.

The UN Security Council committee on al Qaeda sanctions blacklisted and imposed sanctions on the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in 2014 after the insurgents kidnapped more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls.

The designation, which came into effect after no objections were raised by the Security Council’s 15 members, subjected Boko Haram to UN sanctions, including an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban.

The UN Security Council had last week said it remained concerned at the security and humanitarian situation caused by the Boko Haram terrorists and other armed groups in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.

In a Presidential Statement, the 15-member body regretted that Central African countries were beset by ongoing terrorist activity, instability and the effects of climate change, and asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to review the work of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), and recommend areas for improvement.

The presidential statement read: “The Security Council strongly condemns all terrorist attacks carried out in the region, including those perpetrated by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Daesh).

“These attacks have caused large-scale and devastating losses, have had a devastating humanitarian impact including through the displacement of a large number of civilians in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, and represent a threat to the stability and peace of West and Central Africa.

“The Council notes with particular concern the continuing use by Boko Haram of women and girls as suicide bombers, which has created an atmosphere of suspicion towards them and made them targets of harassment and stigmatisation in affected communities, and of arbitrary arrests by security forces.

“The Council emphasises the need for affected States to counter-terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including by addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, in accordance with obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law”.

Responding, the federal government described the UN’s claim as a “mere conjecture.”

Mohammed said there was no basis for the world body to make such a conclusion.

“It is not enough to say that Nigeria paid a ransom, little or huge. There must be a conclusive evidence to support such claim. Without that, the claim remains what it is: a mere conjecture,” he said.

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