THE Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has denied that government paid ransom to secure the release of 21 Chibok girls recently released by the Boko Haram sect, describing the story that government paid the terrorists to release the girls as “unsubstantiated and quite unfortunate.”
A story published in a national daily (not Nigerian Tribune), had maintained that the terrorists were paid ransom to release the girls, proceeds of which they used in procuring more arms to perpetrate more attacks in the North-East region of recent.
But the Army, in a statement signed by its Acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General Rabe Abubakar, maintained that the ransom claim was untrue, noting that with the report, it had become clear that some sections of the media “continue to undermine this modest effort of the government, security agencies and other stakeholders.”
“It is important to recall here that several statements have been issued by the military high command to clarify the issue surrounding the release of the girls, which the whole world applauded. It is, therefore, worrisome that some sections of the media continue to undermine this modest effort of the government, security agencies and other stakeholders. It is imperative to state categorically that the sponsors of this media campaign have a hidden agenda, which is best known to them,” the statement said.
The military added that it and other security agencies would not be distracted and would remain focus in achieving its objectives in the North-East, noting that the “important thing is that the release have been made and circumstances surrounding this effort should not be a matter of controversy so as not to overheat the polity and jeorpardising the ongoing efforts to secure the release of the remaining girls and other innocent citizens still in captivity of the terrorists.”
The Army called on the general public to discountenance the claim, just as it reminded the media to be cautious of such reports.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Boko Haram fighters and their families have reportedly surrendered in Chad in the past month, security and U.N. sources told Reuters, in a sign the military campaign against them is making headway.
Analyst and security sources think the fighters are probably recent recruits that Boko Haram has struggled to retain as it has ceded territory. Defections of Boko Haram fighters have been reported in Nigeria but are not known to have previously occurred on such a large scale.
“They surrendered to our troops on the front line in Lake Chad,” said Colonel Mohammad Dole, Chief Military Public Information Officer for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) headquartered in Chad’s capital N’Djamena.
“The surrenders are taking place because of the firepower of our operations. The groups, many of them armed, have been arriving since September and their number keeps increasing,” he said
Some 240 fighters, most of whom are Chadian, are now being held in detention along with their families, Dole said.
The MNJTF, with troops from Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Benin and intelligence, training and logistical support from the United States, launched a regional operation in July against the group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
It has since continued patrols around the waterways of Lake Chad – one of the world’s poorest regions whose villages were last year regularly struck by fighters, sometimes aboard canoes.