- Boko Haram Used Chibok Ransom to Buy Powerful Weapons
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 said 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.
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, 83 soldiers were reported missing days after they came under a Boko Haram attack. Though there have been increasing reports of soldiers either missing or killed since the Chibok girls were released, the military initially denied the report, it later said that only 39 soldiers were missing.
Also, on November 4, seven military men, including Lt.-Col. Muhammad Abu-Ali, were killed on their way to reinforce troops at Mallam Fatori during a Boko Haram attack. Two days later, one soldier was also killed while four others were wounded in the line of duty.
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.
However, on Friday the combined forces of the ground troops, the fighter pilots of the Nigerian Air Force and local hunters had been deployed to fight the insurgents around some locations in Gwoza.
When one of our correspondents contacted the Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, he said that the minor setback in the operations should not be taken to mean that the Boko Haram was a formidable force.
He told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the military was determined to defend the territorial integrity of the country and was equipped to do so.
He gave the assurance that Boko Haram would not achieve its objective of acquiring any territory in the country.
He said, “The group is not a force to be reckoned with as far as the military is concerned.
“In spite of the minor setback, it does not in any way mean that the Boko Haram is a force to be reckoned with. We will defend the integrity of Nigeria to the letter, and that is what we are committed to do.”
Faulting the payment of cash to the sect as a ransom for the girls, a United Kingdom-trained criminologist and Chairman of Puma Eye Security Services, Mr. Pedro Ayandokun, said it had to be responsible for the renewed terrorist attacks in the country.
He said, “I was never in support of making any exchange with Boko Haram. That is what is creating the problem. What they have got will not be used to buy rice, but to acquire ammunition.”
Also, the Chief Executive Officer of Security Watch Africa, Patrick Agbamu, said giving cash to the insurgents would encourage them to kidnap more girls.
He said, “The government ought not to give money to the terrorists. It will embolden them to kidnap more girls.”
Despite the insurgents’ recent attacks, Agbamu, however, asked for patience, saying, “Up till today, there are still attacks in Afghanistan and Iran. Insurgency is not easily stopped.”
The President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, also said if the Federal Government gives money to the insurgents, it could empower them to carry out more attacks.
He said at a time when the sect was broke, giving money to them might be all they needed to regain more strength.
He said, “There were insinuations that for the 21 girls released recently by the insurgents, cash was given to the terrorists. Cash is exactly what the terrorists need to be strengthened.”
Likewise, a professor of African History, Peace and Conflict Studies and Director, Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, Isaac Albert, said government had not been negotiating with Boko Haram from a position of strength.
He said, “We have said for some time now that we have defeated the sect but it is obvious that it is not true.”
No cash involved in Chibok girls’ release
But the Presidency on Friday insisted that the Federal Government did not pay members of the Boko Haram sect to secure freedom for the 21 Chibok girls.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the position of government remains that cash was not involved in the release.
“Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told the country that there was no cash involvement in the release of the 21 Chibok girls. If you have evidence that it was not so, simply produce it,” he said.
However, one of the lawmakers involved in the negotiation which led to the release of the 21 girls, confirmed that a ransom was paid to Boko Haram but said the amount was far less than $50m.
The source, who expressed shock when one of our correspondents put the question to him to confirm the payment, agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
He said, “I don’t think it is up to that amount. Yes, there was a deal. Something like that (payment of a ransom) happened but it was never near the amount you just mentioned; it is even not up to a quarter of that amount. I can tell you that it was done (paid).
“I can also tell you that the second round of the talk was scuttled because of the disagreement on the next tranche of a ransom. The negotiation for another batch of the girls has hit the brick wall as a result of the failure to agree on an amount (to be paid as a ransom). I am speaking to you on this authoritatively.”
Fiscal Federalism: Lagos Demands One Percent in Revenue Allocation Formula
Lagos State Government on Monday demanded a one percent share in the revenue allocation formula, maintaining that the special status of the State and its prosperity directly or indirectly have multiplying effects on the South-West region and the entire country.
Lagos State Government also proposed that the revenue sharing formula should be 34 percent for Federal Government including one percent for FCT – Abuja, 42 percent for State Governments, 23 percent for Local Governments and one percent for Lagos State (Special Status) as against the current revenue allocation formula, which are 52.68 percent, 26.72 percent and 20.60 percent for Federal Government, 36 state governments and 774 local governments respectively.
The demands were made by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the opening of a two-day South-West Zonal Public hearing on the review of revenue allocation formula by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) held on Monday at Lagos Continental Hotel, Victoria Island.
Governor Sanwo-Olu in a memorandum on review of Revenue Allocation Formula he submitted to the RMAFC declared that allocating one percent for Lagos State (Special Status) and allowing the three tiers of government to share 99 percent in a new revenue sharing formula is very straightforward, self-justifying and in no way controversial.
He said the review of the current revenue allocation formula is long overdue, noting that the best way to guarantee national progress and development is by paying attention to sub-national development because the national is a summation and a reflection of the sub-national.
He also reiterated the call for Lagos State to be accorded special status in recognition of its huge financial commitments to infrastructure and provision of basic amenities for the increasing population of its residents, as well as its preeminent contribution to the national coffers.
He said the call, which has been re-echoed at different fora and at various levels and tiers of government, cannot be overemphasized, especially against the backdrop of the current economic situation of the country, the aftermath of the EndSARS protests a year ago, and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, for which Lagos has been the national epicenter.
“Our demand is a sharing formula that is just, fair and equitable; reflecting the contribution of stakeholders to the common purse, and also one that enhances the capacity of state and local governments to deliver high-quality services and the full dividends of democracy to the greatest number of our people.
“Lagos State is no doubt the nation’s commercial capital, and population center. The level of funding required to service the State’s social and public infrastructure is so significant that it will be difficult for the State to bear the burden for much longer under the present arrangement.
“I should say that it will actually be unfair to expect the State to bear this heavy burden on its own. It is, therefore, necessary to give due consideration to all the variables that support our advocacy for a Special Status.
“The call for a special status for Lagos is not a selfish proposition; it is in the best interest of the country and all Nigerians, for Lagos which accounts for about 20 percent of the national GDP and about 10 percent of the nation’s population to continue to prosper,” the Governor said.
Justifying the need for Lagos State to be accorded special status, Governor Sanwo-Olu said Lagos is more than just another state in the Nigerian federation, noting that there is no tribe in the country that has no significant stake in Lagos State.
He said: “As the former capital of the country for 77 years (compared to the 30 years that Abuja has been the Federal Capital Territory), Nigeria’s largest metropolis still bears the heavy brunt of being home to all Nigerians; irrespective of age, class, gender, religious affiliation or tribe.
“There are several statistics that show the number of people that comes into Lagos every day, however, there are clear indications that most of these people migrate with the intention to make Lagos their new home and in pursuit of personal dreams due to the opportunities the city-state seemingly possesses, and this portends additional responsibilities on the government.
“Additionally, Lagos still harbors a huge number of federal establishments which could not be moved to Abuja. These include military cantonments and barracks, Police, Customs, Immigration, Civil Defence, Prisons, Road Safety and security/intelligence establishments.
“There are several reasons to justify the call for a special status for Lagos apart from the aforementioned factors and by extension, a review of the Revenue Allocation Sharing Formula.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu also said that it would be unfair for Lagos State to be left alone to bear the burden of the massive destruction experienced by the State during the EndSARS protests hijacked by hoodlums and the COVID-19 pandemic without assistance from the Centre.
“This month marks one year after the massive destruction experienced by the State in the violence that accompanied the hijacking of the EndSARS protests. Public buildings were burnt down, and historical infrastructure was destroyed.
“Although we have put that experience behind us and forged ahead, the reality of this unfortunate incident remains with us; resources that should be committed to other areas of need are now being used for the restoration of these public facilities. It will be totally unfair for Lagos State to be left alone to bear these huge expenses without assistance from the Centre.
“COVID-19 pandemic is another issue that has once again, supported the justification for Lagos to be accorded the privilege of special status. As much as this affects the entire country, it is a fact that the degree of the havoc caused by this virus differs from State to State.
“Lagos was the epicenter for this virus, the same way it was for the Ebola virus some years ago. The management of these unforeseen occurrences comes with huge responsibilities and financial commitments on the part of the State Government,” he said.
Governor Sanwo-Olu commended the Chairman and members of RMAFC for taking a bold step, which he believed will “result in a fundamental alteration of the current revenue sharing formula, in favour of one that is truly fair and equitable, and that takes into full consideration the specific and more pragmatic fiscal contexts of the sub-national governments of the Federation.”
FG Places 3,964 Nigerians on Watch List, Suspends Passports
No fewer than 3,964 Nigerians are currently on the watch list of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
The names of the affected individuals, it was gathered, have been placed with security agencies at the nation’s international airports where they will be arrested on sight.
According to the 2020 NIS annual report suspect index, 308 persons were placed on the watch list in 2019, 166 in 2020, while 51 persons were stop-listed in two years.
No fewer than 3, 438 passports are also being watch, while 23 are on the exemption list.
The report states, “Suspect index reviews and maintains the list of persons whose entry into Nigeria is prohibited or on whom special instructions are in place with respect to entry and departure from Nigeria. The travel documents are the instruments used to achieve this objective through synergy with other law enforcement agencies and court of competent jurisdiction.”
In a related development, the NIS has revoked 149, 875 stolen or lost passports and uploaded them to Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database via the Web Services for Data Management platform.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the FG may not meet its 2021 revenue projection from NIS services.
Findings show that there might be revenue shortfall from visa; e-PASS, ECOWAS Residence Card, the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card and other documents issued by the NIS due to the reduced number of foreign visitors and expatriates in the country following COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Immigration sources said the number of Italians, Britons, South Africans, Chinese, Indians, and other Asians, who constitute a large percentage of expatriates in the country, had reduced on account of travel restrictions imposed by their respective countries.
The erstwhile Comptroller-General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede had said the service recorded a 40 per cent revenue shortfall in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figures from the NIS showed that in 2018, the immigration service generated N20.3bn from CERPAC; N40.7bn in 2019, and N16.7bn in 2020.
Envoy Considers Establishment Of Chinese Banks In Nigeria To Boost Economy
Mr Cui Jianchun, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, says he is in talks with Chinese owned Banks to establish operations in Nigeria.
This, the envoy said, is to boost Nigeria’s economy and expand trade relations between the two nations.
Cui made this known on Tuesday in Abuja while addressing Journalists during the commemoration of the 2021 Chinese Moon Festival and China-Nigeria Cultural week.
According to Cui, the establishment of Chinese Banks in Nigeria will also be one of the key areas of discussion during the China-Nigeria Binational Committee meeting, which he is also pushing for the establishment.
He said that an efficient financial institution was a key driver to achieving a strong economy, one Nigeria can learn from China’s experience.
“Before my departure from Beijing to Abuja, I talked to several banks in China. When you list the World’s 10 big banks, six are in China.
“The Banking sector is very important, because, without money, we cannot build our industries.
“What I am thinking here is best to talk to the governor of Central Bank and how we can allow the Chinese Banks to run office here and now, they are doing the feasibility studies on that.
“I am working hard that in the Bi-national meeting, I hope we can make a big decision and give a big push to let the banking industry and insurance industry because financial integration and institutions are key.
“If you go to China, you will find our banking industry is very powerful, not only for business but the change in the way of life.
“Because of the COVID-19, the Banking Industry is a little hesitant, but I told them Nigeria has a lot of human resources and as long as we work together, we can do big things.
“And that is why it is important to invest in the banking industry, to solve this problem,” Cui said.
Extolling the extant China-Nigeria trade relations, Cui noted that the volume of trade between China and Nigeria is nearly 20 billion US Dollars, with an increase from 2020’s 19.2 billion dollars.
Cui said the Chinese economy is restoring to the normal post-COVID-19 pandemic and both governments are working hard on how to expand imports and exports.
Speaking on the event, Cui said the China’s moon festival is a very important and significant one for China as it symbolises family reunion, national peace and social harmony.
The envoy said the 2021 celebration is also a special one as it coincides with the 50th Anniversary of China-Nigeria’s bilateral relations.
He said that both countries also share Oct. 1 as their National Days.
He said it is also on that note that the Chinese Embassy is honouring 50 Nigerian employees of Chinese Companies in Nigeria for their outstanding performance and contribution to strengthening diplomatic ties.
Dr Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, also lauded the Nigeria-China relations.
She said the relations had recorded great successes over the past five decades.
“The five decades of co-operation had since witnessed several cultural activities and exchanges in the spheres of arts, music, dance, exhibition, cultural administration, training and capacity building of cultural officers.
“And recently, the development of Cultural Industries centres in Nigeria, among others.
“I must add that China, through the youth-oriented programmes such as the photos competition and similar activities in the past is surely a dependable ally.
“In redirecting the energy and mind of our youth to creative ventures, thereby furthering the Nigerian government’s policy of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years”, Anyanwukatu said. (NAN)
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