We did not pay N21million for Chibok girls freedom

The Presidency yesterday denied the alleged payment of $21million to Boko Haram leadership for the release of 21 Chibok girls.

It said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had no such money to pay as ransom.

The presidency said negotiations for the release of more Chibok girls, possibly all the rest, were in progress.

The military high command also strongly denied paying any ransom.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity) to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, faulted some reports that the ransom cash was being used by Boko Haram insurgents to buy arms to launch fresh attacks on the country.

The statement said: “Over the past few days, some newspaper reports  ascribing the recent terrorist attacks in Borno State to the government’s negotiation of the release of 21 Chibok girls, with a particular report alleging the exchange of US$21 million for the girls are false and should be disregarded by members of the public. This loose talk is journalism at its most irresponsible and it’s most dismaying.

“As a responsible government that is run on the basis of the constitution and budgets duly appropriated by the National Assembly, we have no such money under any allocation to pay out this outrageous sum of money as ransom.

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“Beyond the call of journalism, the newspaper making this charge has a national duty to point how and where this money was paid, and to supply leads as to where the “powerful weapons” were bought by the terrorists.”

The statement said the girls regained freedom in line with the campaign pledge of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The statement added: “From the inception of President Buhari’s administration, the media, local and international groups, have persistently pressured the government to do everything possible to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls.”

The presidency however appealed to the media not to relent in their support for the military.

It said: “May I humbly, once again appeal to the Nigerian media to continue their unflinching support to the military and other security agencies as they fight to free our country from terrorism.”

In a statement in Abuja, the Defence Headquarters also said it has become worrisome that some sections of the media have continued to undermine national security by insisting a ransom was paid to Boko Haram.

Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig. General Rabe Abubakar said the story carried by a national newspaper (not The Nation) is unsubstantiated, false and a deliberate campaign against the military. He said the report that the ransom paid is being used by Boko Haram to further carry out attacks is capable of undermining national security.

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The DHQ however warns: “The DHQ wishes to once more remind the media to be cautious of such reports which has serious implication on national security and to further add that, as partners in progress, the media also has a stake in the ongoing efforts to restore lasting peace in the North East and the country in general.”

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