…As UN counters FG on release of Dapchi Girls
…Says ‘huge ransom’ was paid to Boko Haram
…It’s not true; no ransom was paid for their release – Lai
…Insists 106 Dapchi girls were released unconditionally
Five months after the release of abducted Dapchi school girls, the United Nations Security Council has countered the claims of the Nigerian government that no payment was made for the release of the girls by Boko Haram.
Following the release of the Dapchi School girls in March after about one month in captivity, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed told journalists in Maiduguri that they were released through back-door channel negotiations and no money was paid to secure their freedom.
Alhaji Mohammed said all the 106 persons were freed unconditionally, contrary to reports in a section of the media that ransom was paid and that some high profile insurgents were swapped for the freed school girls.
”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,” he said.
However, the claims of the Nigerian government were countered by UN Security Council 22nd Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, pursuant to resolution 2368 (2017) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated individuals and entities.
The report was submitted to the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities.
It was signed by Edmund Fitton-Brown, Coordinator, Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, who said the report was “comprehensive and independent”, and Kairat Umarov, Chair, Security Council Committee.
The report said: “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 18 February 2018 and released by ISWAP on 21 March 2018 in exchange for a large ransom payment,” the report stated.
It said the number of doctrinally based non-governmental organisations sending funds to local terrorist groups was growing, and Member States were concerned that radicalisation was increasing the threat level in the Sahel.
The report said: “Meanwhile, Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have had a similar impact in their areas of control, including the Lake Chad basin.
The now confirmed Dapchi girl’s ransom would not be the first by the Nigerian government to free victims held by Boko Haram. Huge ransom was also said to have been paid by the Buhari administration to free many of the released Chibok girls kidnapped in 2014.
Although the move is largely welcomed by many Nigerians as it ensures freedom for the victims, experts fear it has helped fuel the insurgency by ensuring the Boko Haram sect has access to funds to buy more weapons and sustain themselves; a concern raised in the UN report.
It is recalled also that the UN Security Council committee on al Qaeda sanctions blacklisted and imposed sanctions on the Boko Haram sect in 2014 after the insurgents kidnapped more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls.
The UN Security Council had last week said it remained concerned over the security and humanitarian situation caused by the Boko Haram terrorists and other armed groups in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.
In a presidential statement, the 15-member body regretted that Central African countries were beset by 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 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 Daesh).
“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 statement added.
“The Council emphasises the need for affected States to counter-terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including by 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.
It also 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 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,” it said.
“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,” the statement added.
It further noted that UNOCA’s priorities would include working 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.
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