Some senators have hinted that the release of some of the Chibok girls kidnapped in April 2014, involved payment of ransom to the Boko Haram terror group.
The senators said this on Thursday while deliberating on a motion seeking the intervention of the federal government in the rescue of the 46 girls who were reported missing at a school in Yobe after insurgents invaded their school.
While the federal government has confirmed that negotiations took place in the release of some of the 276 captured Chibok girls, it has however kept mum on the issue of possible ransom paid. Over 100 of the Chibok girls have been released while scores more are still being held by the terrorists.
The lawmakers explained that Boko Haram now kidnap women and girls so as to negotiate and ”get money” from the federal government ”just like the case of Chibok girls.”
One of those who expressed that view was the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan.
Mr. Lawan (APC, Yobe North) said extraordinary measures need to be taken in order to protect the girls as Boko Haram now ”use them as a target to get funds”.
“What happened was unfortunate and after the Chibok incident, it was the wish of every Nigerian that it doesn’t happen again in the country. I want to, at this point, commend Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, for immediately taking action by directing the armed forces to move into Yobe to ensure that Boko Haram did not run away with any single girl."
“I want to also commend the Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam, for ensuring that parents were comforted, for sending officials of the ministry of education to go round the families and ensure that they took a headcount of the girls from that school."
“What happened is a lesson for us. That Boko Haram sees girls or women as value targets. What they did in Chibok earned them some funds, because negotiations were held somehow and they got a lot of money."
“Now, the lesson is, we need to be extra careful and take extraordinary measures in protecting our schools; especially girls’ schools in those states especially Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa.”
Mr. Lawan further said that Yobe State has spent over N15 billion supporting security agencies posted to the state, adding that “it is an indication that the state government is working in collaboration and cooperation federal government.”
“I want to urge our state to continue to do that but the federal government should also do the needful. Our state is not those kinds of states that you get a lot of money and therefore, such funds should be refunded to them so that we will continue to provide the required security," he said.
Bukar Abba (APC, Yobe East), who sponsored the motion condemned that attack. He commended the federal government for sending a delegation to the state in a bid to resolve the matter.
“I understand that the governor of Yobe State has already gotten the military to deploy and the police. The federal government has already sent a high-power delegation; three ministers to go and stay in Damaturu and report to Mr. President on a continuous basis until the matter is resolved," he said.
Hassan Mohammed (APC, Yobe South) said that the government of the state has ‘failed serially.’
”This quite disheartening to hear, with due respect to Senator Lawan, to commend the state government for serially failing to protect our students. This is the primary responsibility of the government; to protect the lives and properties of its citizen."
”The state government of Yobe has serially failed in this regard. It has abdicated its primary responsibility in doing that. Again, Mr. President…”
He was, however, cut short by Mr. Lawan, who came under order 53(7) to ”caution his colleague.”
“Order 53 (7)- No senator, shall input improper motive to any other senator."
”How I wish that I didn’t have to come under any order to react to what my brother and colleagues said. I have my reasons for commending the president, the governor, and government of Yobe State."
“If my colleague doesn’t see those reasons and he has his perspective, he doesn’t have to refer to me that what I said is not in order. I have my facts, he has his facts. I will advise, that he states his fact without making reference to me”, he said.
Responding to Mr. Lawan, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekeremadu said: “unless I didn’t hear him well, he didn’t mention you. He was only talking about the governor. If he had mentioned you it would be driven to that aspect you read.”
The Senate Deputy-President now addressed Mr. Mohammed.
“So concentrate on what you want to say. Senate leader is entitled to praise the government, and you are also entitled to condemn them. This is the theatre of democracy.”
Mr. Mohammed still went ahead to criticise the state government for not issuing any ”official statement.”
“This incident happened four days ago, as I speak to you now, not a single official statement came out of this state government. So what kind of government do we have in that state? This is the question I am asking. School children have been abducted. There is no record; you will be getting conflicting reports. Today the police will say 67, another agency of government will say another."
“That is why I strongly feel, that the state government has abdicated its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of the citizens of Yobe state," he said.
Also contributing to the motion, Joshua Lidani (PDP, Gombe South), said that the Chibok incident in 2014 were school-girls were abducted ”ought to have given the federal and state governments a signal especially those in the states that are concerned; Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa.”
“The secondary schools are most vulnerable especially girls’ schools. You know what happened with Chibok girls and we ought to take proactive measures to ensure schools, especially girls schools are well protected. Therefore, we have observed of recent that, this spate of kidnappings happens whenever the Boko-Haram are being severely attacked or are on the run."
“They devise a means of going to abduct people so that they would negotiate with the federal government for ransom. It happened with the recent abduction of Maiduguri staff that were on an exploration. The government negotiated with them and they got money."
“Now they have been empowered, even with police officers wives, the federal government went and negotiated with them and they were given money. We need to be very proactive in this case because the idea of sitting down to always negotiating and paying ransom with this action, we are empowering the Boko- Haram so that they would continue to do more.”
He also flayed President Muhammadu Buhari for his aloofness.
“But the most worrisome aspect was the fact that at times like this, whenever we are faced with this kind of situation, the nation ought to hear from the president. He ought to say something."
”When there were killings in the United States in a school, the President himself went to that school to sympathize with the students and the parents."
“He ought to utter words of sympathy he ought to come to one television and say one thing or the other. It would bring comfort to those who are in distress. People will have the feeling that the President has them in his heart," he said.
Mr. Eweremadu, while sympathizing with the governor and people of Yobe State, said the issue depicts the need for ”another level of policing.”
“If you now asking the military and the police to provide security at all the schools, they cannot have the number to do so. There must be another level of policing to complement the federal government security infrastructure in order to be able to secure all parts of Nigeria,” he said.
The Senate thereafter resolved to ”condemn the attack on the school.”
It also ”urged the FG to quickly recover the girls so as not to repeat the issue of the Chibok girls’ experience.”