By Kingsley Omonobi, Dapo Akinrefon & Joseph Erunke, with Agency reports
•Discloses how Boko Haram is being funded
•It’s fake news, FG didn’t pay — Lai Mohammed
•Challenges UN to show proof of payment
•Military played no role in negotiation — DHQTRS
New York—The United Nations said, yesterday, in its analytical report that the Federal Government paid a huge sum as ransom to secure the release of Dapchi school girls in Yobe State, who were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents on February 18, 2018.
The report, submitted to the Security Council Committee pursuant to Resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaeda and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, also revealed that cash economy was a major factor fueling the activities of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the Lake Chad Basin region.
This was contained in the 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-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities.
The report came against the backdrop of persistent denial by Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that government paid ransom to secure the girls’ release.
“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.
“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,’’ Mohammed had said in one of his denials.
FG didn’t pay any ransom — Lai Mohammed
However, reacting to the report at press time yesterday, Alhaji Mohammed said the Federal Government stands by its position that no ransom was paid for release of the Dapchi school girls, even as it challenged the United Nations to provide proof of payment.
He said: “It is so sad that the media in Nigeria enjoys de-marketing its own country. The United Nations offered no proof of payment, yet, the media is saying we paid and we stand by our position, we did not pay and anybody who said we paid should provide proof of payment.
“Where is the proof of payment? Again, why should they take the UN’s word against our own? It is very sad, and some people said Lai Mohammed lied, I was not contacted.
“You see, this is what we have been saying about fake news. Let them (UN) provide proof of payment. Of course, we did not pay and we stand by our position that we (FG) did not pay.”
The UN report
The UN report, inter alia, said: “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.
“In Nigeria, 111 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi were kidnapped on February 18, 2018, and released by ISWAP on March 21, 2018, in exchange for a large ransom payment.’’
The report was signed by Edmund Fitton-Brown, Coordinator, Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, and Kairat Umarov, Chair, Security Council Committee, who said the report was “comprehensive and independent.”
The UN Security Council committee on al Qaeda blacklisted and imposed sanctions on the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, in 2014 after the insurgents kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State.
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 over the security and humanitarian situation caused by Boko Haram terrorists and other armed groups in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.
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.
Funding of Boko Haram and effects
In a presidential statement, the 15-member body also 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 Da’esh).
“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 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.”
The Security Council welcomed the support provided by UNOCA and the UN Office for West Africa and Sahel, UNOWAS, for the development of a joint regional strategy to address the root causes of the Lake Chad Basin crisis through regular contact with regional leaders.
The Council encouraged partners to increase security assistance to Lake Chad Basin Commission countries, and humanitarian and development support across the region for those affected by Boko Haram activities.
The UN concern on herders/farmers clashes
“The Security Council remains deeply concerned at the grave security situation and related violations and abuses of human rights in parts of Central Africa, in particular the continuing terrorist activities of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the Lake Chad Basin.
“The Security Council expresses its ongoing concern at continued tensions linked to disputed electoral processes, social and economic difficulties, and conflicts between farmers and herders,” it stated.
The 15-member Council noted that UNOCA’s priorities would include to work closely with UNOWAS to address trans-regional issues such as maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, conflict between farmers and herders, and combating Boko Haram.
Military not involved in negotiation —DHQTRS
Also reacting, last night, Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General John Agim, said the military played no role in the negotiation or payment of ransom for release of the Dapchi school girls.
He said the issue of negotiation or ransom should be clarified from the Federal Government and not the military.