UN says ‘large ransom’ paid to free Dapchi girls
The girls were kidnapped from their school in February 18, 2018.
One of the girls, Leah Sharibu, is yet to be released for refusing to convert to Islam, other freed girls said.
The government said on March 21 that negotiations through a back-channel led to the release of the girls and a boy.
But a report released by the UN Security Council committee yesterday said the government lied.
The report which was presented before the council on July 23 but made public yesterday, was signed by Edmund Fitton-Brown, Coordinator, Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team and Kairat Umarov, Chair, Security Council committee.
“The girls were released around 3:00 am through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country,” said Information Minister Lai Mohammed in March.
To free the girls, Mohammed said the only demand made by the insurgents was a temporary ceasefire.
He argued that the government chose not to use its military might because it had a clear understanding that violence and “confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls, hence a non-violent approach was the preferred option.”
“Within the period when the girls were being brought back, an operational pause was observed in certain areas to ensure free passage and also that lives were not lost,” he added.
But on Page 13 of the 25-page document, the UN said: “In Nigeria, 111 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi were kidnapped on 18 February 2018 and released by ISWAP on 21 March 2018 in exchange for a large ransom payment.”
An online newspaper, Sahara Reporters, debunked the government’s no-ransom claims in March.
It, however, did not say how much was paid to the terror group.
The UN noted that kidnapping for ransom and the prevalence of cash economy enabled the activities of terror groups such as Boko Haram and its splinter faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), the group which kidnapped the Dapchi schoolgirls.
President Muhammadu Buhari told former American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Abuja that his government was going to explore negotiation instead of a military option to secure the release.
“We are trying to be careful. It is better to get our daughters back alive,” Buhari said.
“Since 2013, more than 1,000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, including 276 girls taken from their secondary school in the town of Chibok in 2014,” Mohamed Malick Fall, a UNICEF representative in Nigeria said in a statement.
“These repeated attacks against children in schools are unconscionable.”
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