Nigeria’s information minister is denying media reports the Islamist militant group Boko Haram is demanding $50 million from the government as ransom before releasing the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.
President Muhammadu Buhari promised to do all he can to ensure the release of the school girls, following his recent meeting with parents of the abducted girls at the presidential villa in the capital, Abuja.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed said ransom reports are not new.
“It appears we have several versions of this report. The one that we heard was from a source that [Boko Haram] wants to release 10 of these girls for 1 million euros," Mohammed said.
'Gone through this' before
"But the most important thing is that we’ve gone through this route before, and until and when we establish the credibility of this source and the truth behind it, the government will not be in a hurry to make a statement. However, government is using its own channels to authenticate the credibility of this source,” he said.
Mohammed said accusations the Buhari administration appears not to be doing enough to secure the release of the more than 200 Chibok girls is not fair.
“No day passes without the issue of the kidnapped girls not being at the front burner. But these are highly security and intelligence issues, which cannot always be discussed openly," he said. "But I can assure you that for this government, the return of these girls is what is going to bring the final closure on the Boko Haram terrorism and we are working very hard, daily on it.”
Mohammed’s remarks came after the government announced it has made significant progress in the fight against Boko Haram.
The administration said it has “technically” defeated Boko Haram. But critics say the militants continued attacks unarmed civilians, including the use of suicide bombers, shows Boko Haram remains potent, despite the government’s reports.
“Those who say that are being very unfair to us," Mohammed said.
"We inherited a very bad situation where the trail had gone cold, despite that every day we send out reports, we receive [information] some of them are phony some of them are just there to excoriate government.
"But the truth of the matter is that it’s not a matter that the government is taking lightly. Those who want a daily report on what we are doing, of course in security that does not happen. But we have channels of information in which we make available on a need to know basis,” he said.
Mohammed said Nigeria’s military has been able to wrestle control of territories previously under the control of the Boko Haram militants. He also said the militants have been dislodged from their fortresses, including their main operation center in the Sambisa Forest.
“What we have today is cowardly attacks on soft targets. ... And Nigeria has moved on from that and we are now concentrating very much on the rehabilitation, resettlement of those who are displaced. And I think the fact that one of the most wanted persons all over the world was captured without even firing a shot last week. ... I think, is evidence so far of Nigeria’s success in dealing with terrorism," he said.