The recent ransom paid to Boko Haram in exchange for the release of some Chibok girls have contributed to the recent upsurge in the killings and disappearances of soldiers engaged in the fight against the insurgents, senior military sources have revealed.
The military men told Saturday PUNCH that despite denials by the Federal Government, money was paid to the sect to secure the release of the abducted girls.
It was learnt that the insurgents demanded for $50m for the release of the girls but about a quarter of the sum was eventually paid
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the Federal Government paid the cash in two currencies – the naira and the CFA Francs to the leaders of the sect to facilitate the release of the girls.
But, the highly-ranked military men who are engaged in the war, and who craved anonymity because they were not authorised to speak for the military authorities, attributed the recent upsurge in the activities of the insurgents to the huge ransom paid for the release of the girls.
Prior to the current increase in the attacks by the insurgents, it was learnt that the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, deployed in the North-East, had effectively cut off food and logistics supply to the insurgents.
Some of the sources, who are also commanders at the war front, said that the troops had effectively defeated the Boko Haram members, who were on the run while a good number of them had surrendered and taken to a rehabilitation camp established by the Defence Headquarters in Yola.
In October, 21 of the over 200 girls abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State, in April 2014 were released by the group.
However, the Federal Government denied exchanging insurgents for the abducted girls and paying a ransom to the sect.
But the military sources insisted that Boko Haram did not release the girls without getting anything in return and that the Federal Government indeed paid a ransom and released some of the group’s strategists that were detainees.
One of the sources said it was sad that the same government that was initially seen as tough enough to end insurgency in the country failed to negotiate with Boko Haram from a position of strength.
“It is unfortunate that in government’s desperation to secure the release of the Chibok girls, it has put our (soldiers’) lives in danger by yielding to the demands of the group to collect a ransom and secure the release of its commanders.
“It is now obvious that the group has reinforced and bought more weapons to fight us.”
According to another source, left to the military, the ransom and the exchange of Boko Haram members for Chibok girls would not have taken place.
“Funds were given to Boko Haram and now we can all see the result of that action; there have been renewed attacks recently and many of our men have been killed in the process but we will not relent, we will continue to do our best to secure this nation.
“The military had reservations about the arrangement but it was not in our hands; it was a political decision that we had to abide with and it was the DSS that was directly in charge of the operation,” the source added.
Another source, who is also active in the war theatre, said, “They got the Chibok girls and suddenly the Boko Haram that we had beaten and chased out of Sambisa are attacking and killing men of quality.
“It is very obvious that they have used the money they got from the deal to buy equipment and recruit men to carry out their heinous acts.
“The group is still in Mallam Fatori, they have infested the entire area and their strongest point into Chad is Abadam. It is from there that they disperse their men to carry out attacks.
“Another thing you must note is that the towns around the borders are occupied by mercenaries from foreign countries. Where did they get the money to fund that?”
Investigation revealed that Boko Haram members, who were routed out of their dreaded Sambisa enclave by the military, had regrouped at Abadam, and were still holding onto the fringes of Mallam Fatori in the northern part of Borno State.
It was further gathered that the group was engaging the services of mercenaries with their operational base in Abadam in the far north, close to Chad.
The latest incidents contradict President Muhammadu Buhari’s assertion on December 24, 2015 that Nigeria had “technically” won the war against Boko Haram and that the militant group could no longer mount conventional attacks against security forces or population centres.
Following the President’s assertion, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, also said on December 27, 2015 that “we have been vindicated because Boko Haram have been decapitated compared to the past records.”
The sect gained international attention when it kidnapped 219 Chibok schoolgirls on April 14, 2014.
Two years later, on April 10, 2016, the group said it wanted a $50m (N15.7bn) ransom to free the Chibok girls, according to a report by The Sunday Telegraph of London.
The publication said it gathered from sources close to the sect that the demand was made “during secret contacts with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has said he is willing to negotiate for the girls’ freedom.”
The sect’s six-year insurgency has led to the deaths of over 17,000 people, destruction of more than 1,000 schools and displacement of about two million people.
Between May 2015 when President Buhari assumed office and October 2016, the insurgents have carried out over 20 attacks, leading to the deaths of over 2,600 Nigerians.
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