The Presidency on Saturday dismissed media reports that $21 million was paid as ransom to secure the recent release of 21 Chibok schoolgirls.
Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, made this known in a statement issued in Abuja.
Shehu, therefore, enjoined members of the public to disregard the reports, saying “this loose talk is journalism at its most irresponsible and it’s most dismaying’’.
According to him, President Buhari’s administration is 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 as ransom,’’ he said.
“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,” he said.
The Presidential media aide noted that from the inception of the Buhari’s administration, the media, local and international groups, had persistently pressured the government to do everything possible to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls.
“During the election campaigns, President Buhari himself expressed commitment to this and also to bringing an end to terrorism in our country.
We then wonder why anyone is turning the defeat of terror and return of the missing persons against the government.
As at the time he came into power, Boko Haram occupied 80 per cent of Borno State, 40 per cent of Yobe, and a significant segment of Adamawa. Today, the group does not control any territory,’’ he added.
He also observed that the government had successfully enabled the release of 23 Chibok girls, while negotiations for the “release of more, possibly all the rest, are in progress’’.
Shehu attributed the successes recorded by the government in the fight against terrorism to collaboration between nation’s various security agencies, particularly the Department of State Services, the Police, the Civil Defense, Air Force, the Navy and the Army.
He stated that representatives from these arms of the security agencies were also involved in the process of the release of the 21 Chibok girls.
“It is, therefore, unfair and reckless of any medium to quote unnamed, allegedly disgruntled sources within the military, who now claim that the girls’ release has reinvigorated Boko Haram.
Boko Haram operated freely before the Buhari administration came into power, before they had the Chibok girls and after the girls were abducted from their school.
Therefore, whatever the group relies on for strength cannot suddenly be ascribed to the conditions of the negotiations brokered by the local interlocutor, the Swiss government and help from them the International Red Cross, ICRC,’’ he said.
He, therefore, appealed to the media to continue their unflinching support to the military and other security agencies as they fight to free the country from terrorism.
He maintained that terrorism and insurgency remained the biggest threat to Nigeria’s security, economy and national development.
According to him, the war against terrorism is a matter of life and death, not a marketing tool for selling more newspapers or increasing traffic to websites.
He said President Buhari had utmost confidence in the nation’s media and urged them to do more to assist and augment the nation’s internal security.